Germany is known for many things—amazing beer, The Berlin Wall, Oktoberfest, exceptional engineering and craftsmanship, and of course, the Autobahn. Historic castles dot its landscapes, high-end car brands call the country home and hundreds of fine-dining restaurants are scattered throughout its cities.There is literally a little something for everyone. And with the exchange rate being exceptionally good right now, there's really no better time to visit.
But the country is not just about its accolades, stereotypes and historical riches, it’s also an experiential traveler’s dream destination. Personalized shopping tours, one-of-kind driving courses, exclusive cooking classes with some of the world’s best chefs...these are all just another day-in-the-life for Deutschland locals and visitors. Travelers will also love the fact that in many cases the country offers great value when it comes to posh experiences, a quality that is increasingly becoming known as "smart luxury," amongst the savvy travel crowd. Whether you’ve been 20 times or this is your first trip, there is always something exciting to discover in Germany. It’s all about experiencing the country in a new and refined way.
Photo Credit: Schlosshotel Kronberg
Unique, Ancient and Trendy Accommodations
From quaint boutique properties to grand luxury hotels and stunning castles, Germany’s list of places to stay while in the country is vast. In every city, travelers and locals have plenty of options to suit their wants and needs. In Munich, you have hotels such as the Sofitel Munich Bayerpost, the Mandarin Oriental and Hotel Konigshof on the luxury front. Berlin’s fashionable head to Casa Hamper, while those wanting that classic-refined feel, look to the Waldorf Astoria or the Schlosshotel Grünewald. Travelers wanting to stay in the center of all the action choose Hotel de Rome.
If having a fairytale vacation is more your speed, Bavaria, Hesse, Brandenburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Lower Saxony, North Rhineland-Westphalia, and plenty of other locales are home to many castle hotels. Hesse was home to the Grimm Brothers, which is no surprise since it’s region is dotted with castles, some now hotels, such as Schlosshotel Kronberg. The hardest part about your accommodations will most likely be choosing which property to call home.
To give you an idea of the level of cuisine that you can expect to feast on while in Germany, the country as a whole, has 282 Michelin-starred restaurants. Which means, whether you’re looking for it or not, you’re going to stumble across some pretty exquisite food while there. Beyond the typical foods (pretzels, sausages and schnitzel), the country is also known by its locals for its unique fare such as white asparagus, chanterelle mushrooms, Black Forest cake and döner kebabs. Many restaurants offer these treats (while in season), so be sure to choose dishes that include them.
For a more hands-on approach to dining, the three Michelin-star Traube Tonbach’s cooking school offers guests a chance to learn the techniques, tricks and standard recipes used in “grande cuisine” taught by Head Chef Henry Oskar Fried. Before enjoying the labors of your hard work, Sommelier Stéphane Gass will hand you the perfect wine to complement each course. The class is around USD $45 per person.
If you’d rather sit back, relax and have your dinner prepared by trained chefs, don’t worry, there are plenty of options for that too. The two-Michelin star Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer is a fine dining restaurant within Hotel Aldon Kempinski Berlin. It serves European creations helmed by Executive Chef Hendrik Otto who shares on its website, “My passion is to awake emotions with my recipes.” Here you can book a private room for you and your guests in the historic Bundeszimmer banquet room for an even more exclusive experience.
Daring Driving Experiences
Anyone who knows anything about Germany, immediately relates it to two things: the Autobahn and the automobiles that drive it. Naturally if you have yet to drive the world-famous highway, it should definitely be experienced. So, rent your own German luxury car and take some solo drives through the Black Forest and through various cities and towns.
Another way to itch your need for speed is by booking one of the Hockenheim Ring Baden-Wurttemberg race track’s packages. For a track day experience, drivers (from novice to semi-pro) can spend a day on the track with their own sports cars and see how it feels to undergo a racing circuit. You’ll be divided into different performance groups and will learn how to improve on your skills and develop new techniques. Cost is around USD $1,200 per person.
Photo Credit: Porsche
To really hone in on your craft the Porsche Sport Driving School in Leipzig offers courses for those who’ve already gone through the lower precision level sessions. The two-day class outfits you with your own Porsche for the day or you can bring yours along if you’d like. You’ll learn correct steering, finding and following the racing line, vision control, advanced oversteer and understeer, efficient use of all ESC systems, advanced lapping and minimizing unwanted load-changing reactions. The track offers 11 corners and is 3.7 km/2.2 km in length and 12 m/6.5 in width. Cost is around USD $2,000 per person, and around USD $300 extra for an accompanying passenger.
Photo Credit: Dbopp/WikiMedia Commons
One of the most intriguing parts about visiting Germany is learning about its past and diving into its rich culture. The country has had such a long and storied past, that you’d be remiss to skip over its many museums. Boasting some of the world’s most-important collections of European paintings, Gemäldegalerie’s art ranges from the 13th to 18th century. Situated on Museum Island in Berlin, the Pergamon Museum’s major exhibit dates back from 180-160 BC and the building was created specifically for it.
On the musical front, Germany is home to some of the industry’s most celebrated composers including Bach, Brahms, Handel and Beethoven. There are also plenty of world-class opera houses to whet your musical appetite. Possibly one of the most beautiful houses in the world, the National Theatre Munich features an eight-column portico and some of the most advanced stage technology of today. Over in Bayreuth, the Margravial Opera House has been perfectly preserved, and therefore gives audiences a truly authentic experience similar to what was heard in the 1700s. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the structure retains its original canvas and wood, and was built between 1745-1750 by architect Giuseppe Galli Bibiena.
Designer Shopping & Personal Stylists
German brands Hugo Boss, Escada, Tom Tailor and Mykita all have flagship stores in the country; locally-designed goods can be purchased at the Mercedes-Benz classic store; and the fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld calls Germany his homeland—so clearly, fashion is no stranger to Deutschland. In fact, shopping aficionados can look to Munich’s Maximilianstrasse, Düsseldorf’s Königsallee, Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm and Hamburg’s Jungfernstieg to fulfill all their high-end retail needs. Or get your fill in at local outlet shops which are scattered throughout the country! If you're searching for amazing porcelain or beautiful watches, Germany is the place to go, as it is home to Meissen, KPM, Villeroy & Boch as well as Glashütte and A. Lange & Söhne.
One way to experience the shops in the city is to consider a fashion tour. Many will pick you up in a chauffeured car, listen to your personal style choices and will organize a shopping day based on your wants and needs. Personal Shopper Berlin offers this option for up to five people and includes six hours of shopping, lunch (not include in price) and limo service. After your day is done, your bags may just be filled to the brim with plenty of designer labels suited just for you.
Some of the best times to visit Germany is during the summer months (June-August) where the temperate climate makes for a pleasant vacation, but don’t discount November and December for holiday cheer and Christmas markets. Many travelers choose Germany’s own Lufthansa as their preferred airline; it is also the largest in Europe. (Tip: ask about their flight training courses). Not all US credit cards are accepted, so be sure to carry Euros and/or travelers checks.