Travelers in Germany are always drawn to its cosmopolitan cities, world-famous castles, and even the Black Forest. Don’t get me wrong: all of those places are stunning and well-deserving of the attention they’re getting. They are showcasing everything the world knows and loves about Germany. However, Germany has a lot more to offer than just the Neuschwanstein Castle, the Brandenburg Gate or the Berlin Wall. There are many off-the-beaten-track places in Germany that are overshadowed by the above-mentioned destinations and getting off-the-beaten-track can show you a new dimension of Germany and traditions, landscapes, and dialects you weren’t even aware existed. That’s why I wrote this article: to mention some amazing hidden gems in Germany where you can see a whole new image of this amazing country. Here are 14 must-visit off the beaten track places in Germany.
Monschau Eifel National Park
One of the many things Germany is famous for is the amazing hiking trails. On the internet, you will find a lot of lists that include the top hiking trails in the country but for some reason, the name Eifelsteig won’t pop up in most of them. Another name that will pop up even less is Monschau- a stunning small town 17 km away from the Belgium border. Monschau charmed me as soon as I started walking its cobbled streets filled with colorful timber houses and it quickly became one of my favorite small towns in Europe. The surrounding nature and the fact that it’s so near to the hiking trails and the Eifel National Park will give you even more reasons to visit Monschau.
Another very interesting fact about this town is that its appearance barely changed in the last 300 years. The charming cobblestone streets and the timbered buildings are (almost) an exact replica of the 19th century and visiting will allow you (among) other things, to go back in time and see a more traditional German way of life.
Stretching over 300-kilometers between Wiesbaden and Bonn, Rheinsteig is one of the best hiking trails in the country. A lot of people are aware of it but Rheinsteig still made this list because, along the 300-kilometer route, you will find some amazing hidden gems and jaw-dropping nature. Rheinsteig has 21 stages, amazing landscapes, a few stunning national parks, and countless of charming small towns along the way.
Some of the best-hidden gems on the Rheinsteig trail are Konigswinter and the Drachenburg (Dragon Castle), Siebengebirge, Kaub, and the twin towns of St. Goarhausen and St. Goar. The best part of the journey is that as you approach these charming old-fashioned towns, you get to enjoy elevated panoramic views of these towns along the Rhine River as you hike the trail?
Neanderthal Valley was the first place in the world to discover a remnant of a Neanderthal 150 years ago. This was a revolutionary discovery at the time because most people believed that our ancestors came from Africa. However, the Neanderthal Valley’s hidden secrets showed us that’s not the case. At the time, the valley was deep and narrow, featured a lot of waterfalls, cliffs and caves and it provided prehistoric humans a safe shelter. However, the re-landscaping throughout the years took away a lot of this valley’s natural beauty but nevertheless, the valley is certainly a great place to explore. It’s located close to several famous hiking trails and it hosts the Neanderthal Museum. If you read my previous articles, you’ll know that I don’t talk about museums often. However, this one is certainly worthy of your time.
The capital of Thuringia is the most underrated local capital and a great starting point for exploring this often-forgotten state. Erfurt has all the characteristics of an average German city. It’s organized, urban, it has an outstanding public transport and an amazing architecture. But that doesn’t mean that the city doesn’t have its own distinct identity. As the birthplace of Martin Luther, Erfurt is one of the most important cities in German history. The medieval architecture of Erfurt will blow you away and you will get the chance to see the legendary Kramerbrucke, the bridge with the longest series of inhabited (timber) buildings in Europe. The bridge is 900 years old, survived both world wars, and is today the landmark of Erfurt.
Germany has so many hiking trails, it’s no wonder some of them often get forgotten by travelers. One of these off-the-beaten-track trails is Neckarsteig. Note that this hike requires a decent level of stamina but even if you’re not fit, the cities in the region are connected through several rail lines that pass alongside the Neckar River. The trail starts in Heidelberg and ends 130 kilometers into the eastern part of the country. Just like the Rheinsteig, Neckarsteig has more stages that begin in a river town and incline into the woods.
Neckarsteig hides some of the best-hidden gems in Germany but it also overlaps with the Castle Road and allows you to see some of the most stunning castles in the country without making any detours. However, thousands of tourists from around the world visit Castle Road so don’t be surprised if this part of the trail is a bit overcrowded.
Muenster is famous for being Germany’s cycling capital. The small town of 250,000 residents is home to 500,000 bicycles! It’s the only city I’ve seen where history meets youthful charm. History because the city managed to preserve its authentic appearance throughout the years and youthful charm because one-fifth of the population are college students. That’s why you will find a lot more English speakers here. Many travelers aren’t aware that this small town even exists but a large majority of the people that visited claim that this is the best place to live in Germany. And there’s certainly some fearsome competition for that title. The most dazzling part of the city is definitely the city square, symmetrically surrounded by 48 gabled buildings joined together by an arcade, creating a delightful backdrop.
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Regensburg is, in my opinion, home to the most beautiful old town in Germany. And when I say old, I mean really old. Located on the Danube River, this city was first mentioned during the Roman era 2,000 years ago. Regensburg’s timid location close to the Czech border allowed this city to remain practically untouched by all the wars fought on German territory throughout history and preserve its ancient identity. No wonder Regensburg is a UNESCO-listed city. I really wonder why Germany’s best-preserved medieval town attracts as few visitors as it does?
Garmisch and Partenkirchen were actually two separate cities that were united during Hitler’s rule for the winter Olympics of 1936. That’s why today, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a city with a dual identity. In the western part, you’ll find the trendy and urban part (former Garmisch). In the eastern part, on the other hand, you will find the traditional yodeling, slap-dancing, Bavarian charm. Garmisch-Partenkirchen might be more famous than other destinations on this list but I still think it’s underrated. Located close to the Austrian border, right next to the Alps, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is surrounded by arguably the most pristine landscapes in all of Germany. If you’re looking to get away from urban Germany and head to the mountains, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is definitely a must. While we’re at it, check out this article about hidden gems in Austria too.
Blaubeuren and Blautopf
Offering visitors glimpses into different epochs of history, Blauberen is one of the most picturesque towns in Germany. In prehistoric times, Neanderthals inhabited Blaubeuren and during the Middle Ages, the Benedictine monks founded one of the most important monasteries in the country: Wurttemberg. However, despite the fascinating history of this town, it still remains one of the most underrated places in the country and one of the best-hidden gems in Germany. Even the turquoise, crystal-clear, 21-meter deep pool located in the center of the city didn’t help change this. The spring has such a stunning color because it’s basically a limestone funnel. So, if you were to dive you would discover 15 kilometers of underground caves leading to Blau River. This amazing stretch of underwater caves is still not completely explored and unfortunately, only professionals are allowed in.
Landsberg am Lech
Landsberg was once an important stop on the Roman trade route Claudia Augusta, attracting a lot of merchants and travelers. The town survived all the medieval wars and the plague and kept its authentic look. The city is also home to the prison where Hitler was detained in 1923. This is where he started writing one of the most read books of all time, Mein Kampf. That’s why a few years down the line, it became one of the most important cities during Hitler’s rule. Landsberg was a National Socialist stronghold and it hosted one of the 11 subcamps of the largest concentration camp on German soil (the main camp was in Dachau), detaining over 30,000 people. Because of its association with the Nazi period, the city is also home to the European Holocaust Memorial, created from the remnants of the bunkers in which the prisoners were detained in.
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Nordlingen was first mentioned in the 9th century, which makes it one of the oldest cities in Germany. The history of the town is certainly impressive but it’s not the most impressive thing about Nordlingen. Not even close! That title would have to go to the city wall. The wall was built at one of the world’s largest craters! When looking from above, you’ll notice that the wall surrounds Nordlingen in what appears to be a perfect circle. This was the first time for me to see a city that literally has the shape of a circle! You can basically walk the entirety of the wall and see this stunning town from every possible angle. Finally, keep an eye for the tiny diamonds (often not visible to the naked eye) lodged within the graphite used in local buildings.
Related: Hidden places in France you didn’t know existed.
Cochem is another small town that dates back to late Roman and Celtic times. The city is filled with countless intriguing historical buildings with the most notable one being the Cochem Imperial Castle, surrounded by some of the best vineyards in the country. When you take a picture from distance, it appears like the castle is protecting the colorful town from the top of the hill and it’s one of my favorite sights in Germany. Next.
I could see why this stunning place has the name Schrecksee (Green Lake) right away. The lush-green nature surrounding the stunning alpine lake has a similar color to the popular fictional green ogre. Comfortably situated in the Alps, this divine lake remains astoundingly untouched by civilization in today’s Internet era. With an elevation of 6,000 feet, Schrecksee is the highest lake in the country and the only way to reach it is through a seven-hour hike. Getting up there might be difficult but the views are certainly worth it…
That was all from my ultimate list of the best-hidden gems in Germany. When traveling some of these places off the beaten path, you might not find many English speakers. You might need a car to reach some of them but, visiting these places will allow you to experience some of the country’s best-kept secrets and some unique cultural elements of Germany that will only make you fall in love with this country even more. If you want to rent a car and get off the beaten track in Germany, use this link and save up to 30% on your car rental for your upcoming trip.
Helpful resources for visiting Germany
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Did you like the list of hidden gems in Germany? Which one was your favorite? Can you think of some other places that deserve to be mentioned? Feel free to share your thoughts and drop a comment below.
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