If you’re looking for a travel destination with jaw-dropping views, add The Bastei to your bucket list. This rock formation stands 636 feet above the Elbe River in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, southeast of Dresden.
What makes this majestic rock formation even more spectacular is a wooden bridge that connects several of these rocks together. Visitors have been walking across the bridge since it was constructed in 1824 (and replaced by a sandstone version in 1851).
From the 12th to the 15th century, a fortress known as the Felsenburg Neurathen stood by the rock formations. This fortress, however, was burned down by an opposing army in 1484 and there is little left of it to see.
In 1801, tour guide Carl Heinrich Nicolai perfectly described the rock formation from one of its lookout points:
“What depth of feeling it pours into the soul! You can stand here for a long time without being finished with it (…) it is so difficult to tear yourself away from this spot.”
The rock formations have impressed so many people that The Bastei was even the location for Germany’s very first landscape photographs, taken by photographer Hermann Krone in 1853.
The Bastei continues to draw in tourists today, as it has done for centuries!
Bookworms, delight! These 11 libraries are enough reason alone to visit Germany someday.
1. Marienburg Castle Queen’s Library, Hanover
The library in Marienburg Castle, along with the castle itself, was a gift from King George V of Hanover to his lovely Queen, Marie. The lovely arching ceilings and fantastic view make us wish we were curled up with a book there right now.
2. Jacob and Wilhelm-Grimm Center, Berlin
The Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Center in Berlin is an architechtural marvel that was finished in 2009. The design is all about strong lines and sharp angles, but it is still light and open. Students at the Humboldt University get to enjoy this reading room during every exam week, which is almost enough incentive to want to be in school again!
3. The German National Library, Frankfurt
The German National Library is charged with recording and storing every German and German-language publication that is produced. (That’s why the building is so big – it’s full of secrets). The National Libray has been collecting texts since 1913 and now has over 25 million individual items.
The outside is impressive, but the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and spiral staircases are any library-nut’s dream. Gorgeous, right?
4. Stuttgart Central Library
The Stuttgart Central Library may look like something out of a video game, but we assure you, this is real life. The dramatic white staircases, bookshelves, and floors give the whole building a crisp, clean feeling, perfect for all you minimalists out there.
Also, the facade is permanently lit in patterns of blue lights!
5. Wiblingen Abbey, Ulm
Beauty and the Beast, anyone? Nothing more can be said about this absolutely stunning set up inside of Wiblingen Abbey, a former Benedictine abbey that houses several departments of the University of Ulm.
6. Ulm City Library
The theme for hte Ulm Library is transparency, and what better way to show that than with a giant glass pyramid? There are practically no walls in the library, rather everything is about openness, glass, and light.
7. Herzog August Library, Wolfenbüttel
The Herzog August Library is a flavorful blend of classic and modern architecture. It provides the perfect atmosphere for reading the books it specializes in: Early middle ages texts!
8. The Lower Saxony State and University Library of Göttingen
This library may have the strong lines of some of the other ones, but the warm wood tones makes it look so much homier. This is one of the largest German academic libraries. In 2002, it won the German Library of the Year award!
9. Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-House, the Library of the Bundestag, Berlin
One of the major perks of being in the German parliament: the architecture. The German government buildings are some of the most modern in the world. This giant glass structure opened in 2003.
10. The Cottbus Library
Another modern marvel for librarians is the Cottbus Library. The soft, flowing angles and curves are much different than many of the other German libraries.
Also, all of the staircases in the building are a fun pink and green!
11. Duchess Anna-Amalia Library, Weimar
This library is straight out of one of a Goethe or Thomas Mann novel. Coincidentally, Goethe actually lived a few streets over from this heavenly library. You’ll be sure to find some literary inspiration here.
A European selection jury has named the German city of Chemnitz the European Capital of Culture for 2025. The Saxonian city beat four other German cities on the shortlist: Hannover, Hildesheim, Magdeburg and Nuremberg.
The European Capitals of Culture initiative highlights and celebrates the diversity of European culture. It also brings international awareness to cities that receive these awards, often boosting tourism and bringing new life into a city’s culture. The initiative began in 1985, bringing more than 50 European cities into the spotlight thus far. The nomination of Chemnitz marks the third time that a German city has received the title; Weimar was a Capital of Culture in 1999 and Essen received the nomination in 2009.
To understand what makes Chemnitz unique, let’s take a look at a few fun facts about Saxony’s third-largest city:
1. Chemnitz is a city of contrast, a city where tradition meets modernity. Downtown Chemnitz features Bauhaus-style architecture, examples of New Objectivity and traditional structures such as the Rathaus.
2. Chemnitz’s town hall is a major attraction – and it consists of two parts. The Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) was built in the 15th century and gives visitors a glimpse into the city’s past. The New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) was built in the early 20th century in the Art Nouveau style.
3. Chemnitz is an art lovers’ paradise: From the Chemnitz Art Collections to the Gunzenhauser Museum, visitors can enjoy seeing collections of classical modernism.
4. In 1953, the East German government named the city Karl-Marx-Stadt and built a 23-foot tall bust of Karl Marx. Chemnitz was renamed after German reunification. The Marx statue remains one of the city’s major tourist attractions.
5. The city received its name from the River Chemnitz, which has a total length of 47 miles. The name Chemnitz means “stony brook”.
6. Chemnitz is just a short drive away from bountiful nature. The city lies at the foot of the Ore Mountains, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This mountain range is a great place for hiking, skiing and other outdoor activities.
Learn more about Chemnitz in this Deutsche Welle video below:
High up in the German Alps is a lake so eerie that it’s known as the Schrecksee (“fright lake”). With an elevation of 5,949 feet, the Schrecksee is Germany’s highest alpine lake – and it’s often covered in fog.
While some might consider it spooky, others would call it beautiful: the Schrecksee has a mystical feel to it.
Located in the Swabian region of Allgäu, the natural lake lies in the Alps — but getting there is no easy feat. Hiking up to the Schrecksee takes about seven to eight hours round-trip, on average. The views, however, are worth the effort: the Austrian border is located only about 1,000 feet away and hikers can peer over to Germany’s neighbor from the Schrecksee.
Those wanting to cool off can swim in the lake — but with temperatures around 55 degrees in the summer, few find the desire to do so.
Today, the Schrecksee remains a lesser-known travel destination in Germany, perhaps due to the difficulty in reaching it. But for those with a sense of adventure and motivation for a long hike, the Schrecksee is well worth the journey! And it’s also a great place to practice social distancing. Just make sure to start your hike early enough to make it back down before sunset.
Some might guess Venice. But according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the narrowest street is located in the town of Reutlingen, Germany.
The Spreuerhofstraße is located between two closely linked buildings. This street is on average 40 centimeters (15.7 inches) wide, and just 31 centimeters (12.2 inches) wide at its narrowest point.
Although some may be inclined to call this an alleyway, the people of Reutlingen insist that it is in fact a street, since it is located on municipal land.
Let’s take a look at how this passageway became an official street:
In 1727, the city was being reconstructed after a massive city-wide fire destroyed many parts of Reutlingen. In 1820, an administrator in the city’s town hall decided to elevate this gap between two houses into a street. It is wide enough for the average person to walk through, which is one of the prerequisites for the classification of a street. For a long time, Spreuerhofstraße did not receive much attention. But once the Guinness Book of World Records gave the street its title in 2007, tourists started flocking to Reutlingen to see it. But before you start planning a future trip, keep in mind that this street is not particularly long or attractive and we would only recommend going there if you are in the area already! It is also not a great place to practice social distancing, considering how little room there is in the alleyway.
Only time will tell how long this street will remain; one of the 18th century houses is already leaning into it, making it even smaller. It may soon be too small to be considered a street at all!
In this week’s virtual travel series, Konstantin Tesch from the German Embassy tells us about his great-grandparents’ home, Wittenberg. This picturesque city along the River Elbe is one you don’t want to miss – especially if you love history!
The city of Wittenberg has a special meaning for me, as it is my second home. Although I was born and grew up in Berlin, during the holidays I visited my great-grandparents who lived near the city of Wittenberg almost every year. My great-grandmother still lives there today and she will be 97 this year!
Wittenberg is located in eastern Saxony-Anhalt, on the banks of the River Elbe. The first thing you can see from the distance is the time-honored castle church, at the gates of which Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) is said to have posted his 95 theses on October 31, 1517, with which he initiated the Reformations. The division of Christianity into Catholic and Protestant churches began in Wittenberg.
For this reason, October 31st is also called Reformation Day (Reformationstag) in Germany and is a public holiday in most federal states.
Martin Luther also lived and worked in Wittenberg. Even today you can visit the so-called Luther House, where the reformer is said to have been enlightened by the Reformation change. His closest ally and co-founder of the Reformation Philipp Melanchthon (1497 – 1560) also lived in Wittenberg and his house (in a reconstructed form) can be visited today, too. Luther an Melanchthon are buried side by side in the castle church and there are two large statues of Luther and Melanchthon on the market square in Wittenberg.
The painters Lucas Cranach Elder (1472 – 1553) and his son Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515 – 1586) lived in Wittenberg at about the same time as Luther and Melanchthon. Both were important Renaissance painters. The so-called Cranach-Hof houses the premises of their old studio. Cranach the Younger is buried in the town church of Wittenberg, which is also clearly visible from afar with its double towers.
The so-called Luther wedding (Luthers Hochzeit) takes place every summer. The Luther wedding is a big city festival in honor of the wedding of Martin Luther with his wife Katharina von Bora in 1525. At the Luther wedding, people dress up in medieval costumes and frolic in the medieval flair of the historic city center. Everywhere there are stalls with handicrafts and souvenirs in the medieval style. Everyone is waiting for the big parade, where representatives of all the surrounding villages and their associations gather and disguise themselves as Lutheran people to walk through the two main streets of the city.
In the past years I have visited the city again and again. My family tree can be traced back to the 17th century and many of my ancestors lived in the villages around Wittenberg. The city is not only a historical gem, but for me it is also a place of family and wonderful memories.
In this week’s virtual travel series, German diplomat Niels von Redecker shares 10 reasons why he loves his hometown Bonn. From architecture to history to culture and natural beauty, this city on the Rhine is one that everyone should experience at least once!
Sweet childhood memories
Like the smell of licorice on the hockey playgrounds in Dottendorf, a southern part of town, right opposite of the original Haribo factory.
An endless promenade along both sides of the river Rhine – perfect for hour-long runs, skates or bike rides.
“Rhine in flames”
Year by year, this is the biggest event on the Middle Rhine – spectacular bonfires, reflections and echoes!
In our latest travel series, German Embassy diplomats and staff share experiences and information about their German hometowns. Today, Eva Santorini shares her memory of her visit to Coburg, Germany.
As my thoughts turn to my interests – travel and history – during these twilight zone COVID-19 days, I recall family trips to Europe to visit relatives. Transatlantic travel at the time was more complicated and expensive than it is now, so I met my grandparents only a few times and instead became a prolific letter writer at a young age. After World War II, my mother’s parents had resettled in a small scenic German town called Coburg in Oberfranken in northern Bavaria, a town first mentioned in historical records in 1054.
I was thrilled to meet my Oma und Opa for the first time when I was six years old, and the memories of that trip will remain with me forever. The small town sported small tidy streets of cobblestone radiating from the Marktplatz where small shops and cafes beckoned to visitors. My favorite memories are of the Coburger Würstchen, a long thin sausage whose delicious smoked flavor I can almost conjure up now, even after being a years-long vegetarian, and the small store under my grandparents’ apartment where we bought sweets.
The “Veste Coburg,” first mentioned in a document from 1225, dominates the town and is accessible on a long winding path that leads to its imposing entrance. Another sight I recall was the statue of the town’s most famous citizen, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (formal name: Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel, 1819–1861) who married Queen Victoria in 1840.
Now fast forward: that little girl grew up to become interested in world history. Join me in making the leap from seeing the statue of Prince Albert in Coburg and forging that personal but profound connection to the larger historical picture and the larger-than-life figures of World War I.
After Prince Albert’s death, Queen Victoria found comfort in her large family which by then included 42 grandchildren. It is from these descendants that we learn of interesting and extremely convoluted relationships which had resulted from the intermarriage within Europe’s royal houses.
Three grandchildren of the royal couple became European rulers. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, King George V of Great Britain, and the former German Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine – later known as Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and wife of Tsar Nicholas II, were first cousins. It was so much more troubling, then, that as the sound of the war machine grew louder in 1914, these cousins found themselves on opposing sides of the conflict.
Just before the “guns of August” sparked the beginning of the Great War, it is said that Tsar Nicholas implored his cousin, King George V for protection and requested exile in Great Britain. Sadly no protection was granted and the rest is, truly, history.
The visits to Coburg to see my grandparents left me with many vivid and happy memories. But they also fostered a curiosity that reaches far beyond those innocent childhood memories. Perhaps you have been fortunate to make a strong family connection during a visit to Germany. What are your memories? What struck you?
Germany is known for its many majestic castles and palaces. But even those who don’t go out of their way to visit one may stumble across the ruins of a medieval castle: Germany has over 20,000 castles, some of which are well-known attractions and others that lay isolated in ruins in the countryside.
The most famous castle is, of course, Schloss Neuschwanstein, which was built in the Bavarian hillside in the late 1800s. Walt Disney’s castle was inspired by Neuschwanstein, and the site is known worldwide for its magical appearance. It is Germany’s most-visited castle, bringing in over 1.3 million tourists per year.
But Germany also has plenty of smaller, lesser-known castles and palaces that are hidden throughout all of its 16 states. Although this is not a time for travel, we wanted to give you a visual tour of some of these hidden places. Here are just a few:
1) Hohenbaden Old Castle, Baden-Württemberg
Hidden in the Black Forest encircling Baden-Baden is the Hohenbaden Old Castle, which has origins dating back to the 12th century. This castle fell into disuse and was destroyed by a fire in the 16th century, but its ruins make it an attractive destination in the Black Forest today.
2) Werdenfels Castle, Bavaria
The ruins of Werdenfels Castle are located in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria. Little is known about this castle’s origins, but it was most likely built in the 12th or 13th century. It served as an administrative and judicial center for some time, but by the 17th century it was deteriorating. The ruins were privately bought in 1822 and restoration of the castle began in 1986. Today, visitors can hike up a nature trail to see the castle ruins for themselves.
3) Castle Neuleiningen, Rhineland-Palatinate
The Castle Neuleiningen is a castle ruin that was built on the edge of the Palatinate Forest and destroyed by the French in 1690 during the War of the Palatine Succession. Today, the castle is sometimes used for open-air concerts and festivals. The observation tower has spectacular views of the Upper Rhine Valley.
4) Lichtenstein Castle, Baden-Württemberg
The Lichtenstein Castle was built relatively recently; it was constructed in the 1840s by German patriot Wilhelm Hauff who was inspired by the historical novel and fairy-tale Lichtenstein, which takes place in a majestic castle. Although the region had been home to many castles, most of these were in ruins by the 19th century, so Hauff commissioned the construction of a new one. The Lichtenstein Castle was damaged during World War II, but has since been restored and is open to the public for tours. This castle is not well-known among international tourists.
5) Schloss Drachenburg, North Rhine-Westphalia
Some castles are historic ruins; others are modern residences. Schloss Drachenburg is more of the latter; this majestic palace was built as a private residence in the 1880s. It stands on a hill on the Rhine near the city of Bonn. Baron Stephan von Sarter, a wealthy broker and banker, had originally planned to live in the castle but ultimately moved to Paris, where he lived out the rest of his days.
Are you an expert on Berlin? Think you know everything there is to know about Germany’s capital city? A large portion of Berlin’s population are transplants from other regions of Germany and other nations, so there’s a lot of competition for knowing all there is to know about this dynamic, bustling city.
Because so many Americans already know so much about Berlin, we decided to compile a list of almost unknown facts, or things so obscure they might not be known by even Americans who’ve spent a considerable amount of time in Berlin. The goal here is to challenge even the most ardent fan. How many of these facts do you already know? Count them up, and we’ll rate your score at the end!
As they say in Berlin, “Ran an die Buletten!” (“Let’s go!”)
We’ll get you started with an easy one…
1. Did you know Berlin has an aquarium with an elevator?
The DomAquarée in Berlin is the “largest free standing cylindrical aquarium in the world”.
With thousands of fish and unique flora and fauna, a ride through its middle is a must!
The 82 ft tall AquaDom at the Radisson Blue Hotel in Berlin is home to nearly 2,600 fish of 56 different species. About 264,172 gallons of water fill the cylindrical tank in the hotel lobby.
The aquarium was constructed in 2004 at a cost of 13 million Euros. And upkeep is not cheap: back when the tank had only 1,500 fish, they required 18 lbs of fish food per day – and this number has surely risen.
In order to get a better 360 view of the fish in the AquaDom, visitors can take a transparent elevator up through the inside of the tank!
Ok, that one was pretty easy. Let’s turn up the heat!