Conde Nast Traveler published this article recently featuring "The Most Beautiful Places in Germany" with a glamor shot of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria front and center. When I read it I was happy to discover that in my first year of living here I've already seen seven of the twenty five places listed. That's almost a third, 28% to be exact. Not bad for being a newbie! At this pace, I will have seen them all by August 2021. Mark your calendars. A few of the places are most definitely beautiful and clearly winners: Königsee (a beautiful lake), Rakötzbrucke (a beautiful bridge), and Neuschwanstein (a beautiful castle). And others I found to be a bit of a stretch, or at least pale in comparison to the knockouts I just mentioned, like Museum Island here in Berlin. I imagine they felt compelled to put something from Berlin on the list seeing as how it is the capital of Germany and all, but Museum Island is literally just a central section of the city, surrounded by some water, with museums. I would argue that The Soviet Memorial in Treptow Park or Cafe Am Neue See in the beautiful Tiergarten or The Sanssouci Palace just outside Berlin in neighboring Potsdam where King Frederick The Great spent his summers are more beautiful than a concrete block of museums. But as I've stated more than once on this platform, what do I know.
Because I know you are dying to know, here are the seven spots from the list that I've been to thus far, in no particular order:
1) Neuschwanstein Castle, Bayern
Ok so we went to the castle but didn't actually go in because the entire area was maddeningly packed with tourists and tour buses. But we admired it from afar and explored the surrounding area. We found the neighboring Alpsee (a lake) to be far more interesting and beautiful. You're not allowed to take pictures inside the castle so I wouldn't have had much to show here for the entry fee anyway. This totally still counts.
2) Königssee, Nationalpark Berchtesgaden
This lake was amazing and is in a National Park that on a map looks like it should be in Austria; a small finger of southeastern Germany that juts out into Austria. This area of Germany was where Hitler and his cronies hung out when they were planning the demise of the human race. A seriously beautiful area with a totally fucked up past. Neat wooden boats full of tourists run the length of this lake several times a day and once you get to the far end of Königssee you can disembark and take a short walk to another, more remote lake called Obersee which is also beautiful and a total show-stopper. All the images below are of Königssee except the one on the top right which is Obersee.
And what is a dip in a mountain lake without a GoPro video? This is us in the Obersee, courtesy of my favorite travel companion Anna.
3) Bastei Brücke, outside Nationalpark Sächsische Schweiz
This National Park is on the Eastern German border with Czechia but this bridge, called the Bastei, is firmly situated in Germany and is actually not technically inside the National Park. I spent some time hiking around this area one weekend on my way back West to Berlin from Prague. The train route goes right through the National Park so it seemed like a no-brainer to hop off and wander around for a few days before arriving back in flat, mountain-less Berlin. I was so happy I did because this area is beautiful, so beautiful that I already wrote a whole post about it here. The bridge itself was built in 1851 and is made of sandstone. Even with all the tourists everywhere, I really loved this spot and can't wait to go back to explore more of the area.
4) Zugspitze, Bayern
The Zugspitze is Germany's highest peak at 2,962 m (9,718 ft) above sea level. It's located in the southern state of Bavaria (or Bayern in German) just south of the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the host city of the Olympic Games back in 1936. Again, we didn't exactly climb to the top of this peak or even bother to take the Bergbahn or gondola to the top. But we did gaze at it and its humungous neighbors from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, as well as from the banks of a lovely lake at its base, the Elbsee. But this still counts. The Elbsee was beautiful and the mountains were beautiful and I've totally been to the Zugspitze...just not on the Zugspitze.
5) Partnach Klamm, Bayern
If you like reading my ramblings on this blog, perhaps you will remember this post where I sing the praises of Bayern and mention the German term Klamm a few times. To review, a Klamm is a river gorge or ravine and here in Germany many such places are outfitted with excellent hiking infrastructure: walkways, stairs, ladders, ropes, and tunnels all to make it possible to enter and enjoy these wet and wild areas. As a result, they are not usually free to enter, but only cost a few Euros. This particular Klamm, right outside of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, had just reopened at the time of our visit after having been closed for a year due to a giant storm that quite literally washed much of its aforementioned infrastructure away. Not only did we get to enter the Klamm on our visit but it had been raining all morning which, according to the Klamm experts, is the best time to visit this sort of attraction because the river is raging and apparently the wet walk is part of the full Klamm experience. And as a matter of fact, while it was quite wet, it was also totally beautiful.
6) Bamberg, northern Bayern
So again, here we are in the southern state of Bayern but this little town is in the northern part, quite far from the Alps. We stopped through for a night, just to break up a long day of driving on a road trip from Berlin to northern Italy. Since 1993, a significant part of the town has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage site and the town cathedral dates back to year 1237?! This place is full of history with quite a few extremely old sites to see but unfortunately, with just a few hours to spend there one rainy morning, we didn't get to see it all but I hope to make it back someday to see more.
7) Museum Island, Berlin
I don't know what to say here. I've been to this part of Berlin about 5 times but I don't have a picture of Museum Island because it just never occurred to me to photograph that area. There are some amazing museums on Museum Island but I'm not sure I would call the island itself beautiful. The Berliner Dome, Alte Nationalgalerie, and the Altes Museum are all impressive buildings on the island, and they contain beautiful things and boast centuries and millennia of history. This is a fact. But in my opinion this slideshow has more beautiful things in Berlin than Museum Island:
So there you have it. Seven out of twenty five beautiful places in Germany that I've seen with my own eyes. Next on the list, I would love to visit Harz National Park, or the Mosel River Valley, or Lake Schrecksee, all of which are also included in Conde Nast's article. But, until then, I will continue to seek out my own most beautiful spots in this country with friends, family, and an open and curious mind.