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In progressive Berlin, the old buildings of Mitte gracefully coexist with the modern Reichstag. Don't miss top historic sights like the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz. The city's great zoo makes for a fun break from touring the staider attractions.
Second only to Berlin in size and population, the city of Hamburg is home to one of the biggest harbours in Europe. A stroll along its many waterways and canals illustrates why it has been called the "Venice of the North." Don't miss a trip to the local fish market (Fischmarkt), the Merchants District (marked by its imposing red-brick architecture), a fine dining experience along the river or a night out in the university quarter. And did we mention the Reeperbahn (red light district)? It's quite famous for its… red lights.
Munich was almost completely destroyed in two world wars, yet it's managed to recreate much of its folkloric, Bavarian past. Oktoberfest is legendary, but you can visit the Hofbrauhaus any time of year for an immense beer. Olympiapark, the site of the 1972 games, is not to be missed (you can skate on the Olympic ice rink and swim in the pool). On a somber note, take time to visit the concentration camp at Dachau—it's an intense, yet unforgettable, glimpse into the not-too-distant horrors of the Holocaust.
On the banks of the lovely Elbe River, the German city of Dresden is lush and green, filled with forests and gardens and parks. The city is rich with cultural and artistic history; the great operatic composer Wilhelm Wagner debuted a number of works here in the 1800s and, today, an independent light opera company keeps the classical art form modern and fresh. Culture vultures will love the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and Grünes Gewölbe museums, and architecture buffs will salivate over the mélange of styles reflected in the cityscape.
South of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the Austrian border lies Germany's highest mountain, Zugspitze, rising nearly 10,000 feet and offering gorgeous glacier-top skiing. The towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen used to be separate, but were merged for the 1936 Winter Olympics. With almost 75 miles of downhill runs of all difficulty levels, Zugspitze also has 68 miles of cross-country trails, a terrain park and Germany's first superpipe. It's super cool to say you were skiing in Garmisch, so be sure to spread the word upon your return.
One of Germany’s biggest and best-known resorts, Bavarian Alpine village Oberstdorf is popular with families year round. It’s home to Heini-Klopfer-Skiflugschanze, the world's second largest ski-jumping hill (and site of the famous "agony of defeat" ski-jump wipeout clip from ABC's Wide World of Sports). Nearby are the ski areas of Nebelhorn, Kanzelwand/Fellhorn and Kleinwalsertal.
Walk atop Rothenburg’s city walls or climb to the top of the town hall for great views. The Night Watchman tour is an unforgettable way to learn the city’s history. And our travelers also recommend the Medieval Crime Museum (Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum)—it’s gruesome but fascinating.
There are 2,000 years of history in Cologne, and visitors here will find everything from Roman towers to Gothic churches to fine examples of modern architecture. Cologne has a variety of museums, too—check out the Museum of Applied Art, the Museum Ludwig and, if you have a sweet tooth, the Chocolate Museum. Be forewarned, though—the gift shop at the latter will utterly ruin your diet.
Winter sports enthusiasts will love Berchtesgaden, a village in the German Alps with several ski slopes and a top-notch bobsled track. Visit the Berchtesgaden Salt Mines (TripAdvisor travelers rave about their slides!). Nearby Lake Königsee makes a great day trip.