Backpacking through Germany is sure to expose travelers to the rich history of the country, the diversity of the countryside, and plenty of beautiful, long-standing architecture. The country is well connected by trains and discount airlines, making it easy to move between destinations. From beer drinking in Munich and sight seeing in Dresden to medieval city tours in Rothenburg and hiking in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, travelers will have no shortage of activities to fill their days.

Where to go Backpacking in Germany

1. Hamburg - Population: 1.7 Million

Hamburg is one of the most visited cities in Germany, and it’s a great starting point for any Backpacking adventure. Once the ‘Vegas of Germany’, Hamburg was known for its red light district. It has since become a hub for the arts and a vibrant youth culture, and the streets are lined with cool bars and cafes. The harbor is Germany’s second largest port, and backpackers can spend their days marveling at international ships docked at this trading hub, walking along the canals (similar to those in Venice), or taking in views of the Elbe River basin. Be sure and check out Altstadt, Kunsthalle museum, and the Deichstrasse neighborhood. Peak visit times in Hamburg are between May and September, when the temperatures are most favorable. If you want to avoid the crowds and high prices visit in the fall.


2. Berlin - Population: 3.5 Million

Germany’s capital city, and largest city, has been named one of the best European cities for budget travelers, and is a city that’s easy to get to from almost anywhere. Berlin is home to more than 170 museums, and its turbulent history is easy to see as backpackers walk through the city. Visit the remaining pieces of the Berlin Wall, The Brandenburg Gate, or the Holocaust Memorial to truly understand the deep history that Berlin holds. For other must see spots, visit the Reichstag, the Berlin Cathedral, and Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The best time to visit is between May and September, when the weather is perfect for cafe sitting and city strolling. Winter is cold but the best time for backpackers to score a deal.

Check out Berlin's top craft beer bars!


3. Dresden - Population: 525,105

Dresden is a city that has been gaining popularity over the years as a tourist destination. The historic legacy of Dresden is breathtaking, as it was partially destroyed by bombings and firestorms during WWII. Given the rebuilding and restoration efforts, the architecture is particularly interesting and beautiful. Backpackers will have no shortage of sights to see, parks to explore, and restaurants to visit. Don’t miss out on the Zwinger Palace, the Frauenkirche, or the Semperoper Opera House, all buildings that were partially destroyed by bombings, and that showcase the city’s restoration efforts. Dresden’s climate is fairly moderate, making is a great city to visit any time of year. The main tourist season, and most favorable weather, is between May and October.


4. Rothenburg/Romantic Road - Population: 10,930

The Romantic Road is a route of about 290km between the towns of Wurzburgh in northern Germany and Fussen down in the Alps. All along the way sit beautiful medieval villages that are almost too fairytale-like to be real. Backpackers can tour the route by bus, car, train, or bike. Rothenburg is the most visited town along the route, and is full of medieval charm. Visit the Medieval Crime Museum, walk along the city’s walls, or take the Night Watchman tour to learn more about the city’s history. The route is pretty popular among tourists, so it’s packed during the summer months, but these months offer the best temperatures and the most daylight hours. If you visit in January, you can only count on about two hours of sunshine a day.


5. Munich - Population: 1.3 Million

Munich is the capital of Bavaria, and is a monument to German traditions. Munich is the site of the world famous Oktoberfest, and is a celebration that lives up to all the hype. Even if you can’t make it for ‘the’ festival, Munich is the perfect place to eat your weight in Sausages and pretzels, listen to lively music, and to wash it all down with a beer or two. The bustling youth culture means that there is no shortage of nightclubs, bars, and restaurants, perfect for young backpackers looking to experience the modern culture of Germany. Aside from beer and food, Munich is full of historic landmarks. Take a walking tour through the city and see the Friedensengel (Angel of Peace), the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), and the Deutsches Museum. The best time to visit is between March and May when the summer crowds have left and peak season hasn’t quite hit.


6. Garmisch-Partenkirchen - Population 26,178

Any trip to Germany isn’t complete without a visit to the Alps, and Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the perfect place to visit for just that. The alpine town was host to 1936 Winter Olympics, and lies at the base of Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze. Visitors can take the original cable cars up the mountain for breathtaking views and a beautiful hike back down the mountain or through the Partnach Gorge. During the summer, backpackers can spend time hiking in the surrounding mountains or taking a swim in the nearby Lake Eibsee, and winter time visitors can take to the slopes for skiing and snowboarding. There is really no bad time to visit, but your trip should be planned based on your interests. It’s the perfect destination for backpackers looking for a little outdoor adventure in any season.


7. Cologne - Population: 1.0 Million

Cologne is the German capital for gay and lesbian life, and boasts a thriving nightlife and arts scene. It’s a central location in Germany, and serves as a great taking off point for backpackers, as it runs direct trains to and from big cities like Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Vienna, and Prague. It’s also a hub for low cost airlines, making is the perfect city for budget travelers. This city has everything from Roman towers to Gothic churches and modern architecture. Be sure and visit the National Socialism Documentation Center, the Chocolate Museum, and the Koelner Dom. September and October are peak season in Cologne and the best time to visit in terms of weather, but May and November are still warm and are a good time to avoid the crowds.


8. Frankfurt - Population: 687,775

Frankfurt is Germany’s financial capital and a modern business center. It stands in contrast to the other cities backpackers will visit, as it doesn’t have so much of the old world German charm. Most of the city is sleek and wealthy, but there are a few pockets of preserved culture. Once you’ve had enough of the skyscrapers, head to the old quarter of Sachsenhausen or visit the gothic Saint Bartholomeus Cathedral. Other great spots to visit include Fressgasse (“Pig Out Alley”), Goethe’s Museum, or catch a screening at the German Film Museum. It’s hard to find a bad time to visit Frankfurt. The temps are mild, and snow is uncommon even in the winter.


This article was written by Alexis Hartmann.