Many tourists think that cities like Berlin, Munich and Hamburg are the only attractions Germany has to offer. With a friendly, educated (and oftentimes English-speaking) population, wandering off the beaten path and visiting Germany’s quaint villages and small towns can be equally rewarding.
Germany’s history as a unified country is relatively short but many communities date back to the Middle Ages. Here are some of the best:
1. Rothenburg ob der Tauber – One of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Germany, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a quaint town of 11,000 inhabitants. It is part of the Romantic Road, a route that runs through southern Germany and connects a number of picturesque towns and castles.
2. Fussen – With Neuschwanstein nearby, Fussen is a popular destination for tourists en route to the famed mountaintop castle. The town is a destination in and of itself, nestled in the Bavarian woodlands and home to countless works of Gothic and Renaissance art.
Fussen dates back to Roman times and the oldest known fresco, dating back to 980 AD, is located in St. Mang’s Basilica. Fussen is the southernmost town on the Romantic Road.
3. Monschau – Be sure to plan your trip to Monschau around the holidays, because the Christmas market is a regional attraction that draws thousands of visitors every year. Monschau is located near the Belgian border.
Monschau Castle dates back to the 13th century but is used today as a youth hostel and gathering space for music festivals and other cultural events. The town prides itself on its designation as a “Luftkurort,” which literally means air spa. Due to its superior and supposedly therapeutic climate and air quality (which is periodically monitored), the town can charge overnight guests a health resort tax.
4. Meissen – Also known as the “Cradle of Saxony,” Meissen is located in eastern Germany and is known for its eponymous porcelain. There is an annual Weinfest to celebrate the wine harvest and the town produces its own wine from the nearby vineyards along the Elbe River.
The historical district is notable for its Renaissance architecture and the sweeping views from the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
5. Bacharach – Timber-framed houses a sprinkled throughout Bacharach, a charming village built on the Rhine River. The Altes Haus (“Old House”) is a timber-frame house that dates back to 1328!
The town’s name points to Celtic origins and there is some evidence to suggest that the town has been around since the 7th century AD.
6. Lindau – Located on Lake Constance (Bodensee in German), Lindau is an island town in Bavaria.
Lindau is perfect for adventure seekers and is popular with cyclists, sailors, swimmers and campers. The stunning architecture, lighthouse and gardens make Lindau a truly unique place to visit.