From Berlin to Bavaria, discovering famous landmarks in Germany is a great way to get a snapshot of the events that defined this nation. The land of beer and sausages is also a country that brought to the world some of the best artists, philosophers and musicians. It’s the country where the internal combustion engine and the first car was invented.
From forests, mountains and lakes to thriving cities, these German landmarks are diverse and fascinating. With 83 million people, Germany is a key player in the European Union and the fourth largest country by geographical area.
- 22 Famous German Landmarks
- Natural Landmarks in Germany
- Historic Landmarks in Germany
- Modern Landmarks in Germany
22 Famous German Landmarks
Natural Landmarks in Germany
1- Mount Zugspitze
Mount Zugspitze is 2,962 m above sea level and although it’s a minnow compared to some mountains in the European Alps, it’s the ninth highest mountain in Europe and the highest mountain in Germany.
The mountain is part of the Wetterstein range, which is a chain of limestone peaks in the Bavarian Alps, bordering Germany and Austria.
With three glaciers, 20 km of pistes and natural snow six months of the year, Mount Zugspitze is a magnet for those who love snow sports, but it also has plenty for those who don’t.
The journey up the mountain itself offers panoramic views, starting with a cogwheel train ride from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Lake Eibsee followed by a cable car ride to the top of Germany.
Germany’s highest point has views of 400 peaks in Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland.
Other attractions are exhibits about how the mountain evolved, two toboggan runs, restaurants, an igloo village and the highest church in Germany.
Glacier lifts provide access to the Zugspitze Glacier, which is a white wonderland 2,600 m high.
Mount Zugspitze can be accessed via Garmisch-Partenkirchen or Eibsee.
2- Lake Constance
More than half of Lake Constance’s 270km shoreline is in Germany and even though the rest is in Austria and Switzerland, it’s German enough to call it one of Germany’s best natural landmarks.
Lake Constance was formed during the ice age by downward erosion from sediments from the Rhine.
The views across the lake from the German shore, with the Swiss Alps in the background, are stunning.
In 1414, Konstanz was the town chosen for authorities to meet to decide upon the future of the Papal office following the confusion caused by the Avignon Papacy.
Castles, baroque churches, charming town squares and villages surround Lake Constance, making it a beautiful place for a holiday and a destination where you can visit three countries in one day.
In Saxon-Switzerland National Park, the jagged sandstone rocks of the Bastei is a natural German landmark that was once the foundation for Neurathen Castle.
These days, all that remains of the castle is its bridge, which was originally a wooden bridge that was rebuilt in stone.
The bridge leads to the castle ruins and has lovely views of the Elbe River and Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
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Historic Landmarks in Germany
4- Eltz Castle
Built on a rock in a valley with the Elzbach River flowing around it, Eltz Castle is a historic landmark of Germany with eight towers, timber frame structures and turrets.
It looks straight out of a picture book and has 850 years of history.
The first castle dated back to 1157 and was on the Mosel-Maifeld-Eifel trade route. There are remains of Celtic and Roman fortifications on the site.
The castle has stayed in the hands of one family throughout the years.
Elz Castle is at 56294 Wierschem, Germany, and is open from 1 April 2020.
5- Cologne Cathedral
The construction of Cologne Cathedral lasted from 1248 to 1880 and took more than 600 years to build.
Over seven centuries, builders continued to be inspired by the original design and not distracted by the changes each century brought to their worlds.
The Gothic cathedral is an impressive showcase of architecture and a testament to how Christianity in Europe endured through the centuries.
The basilica has five aisles, a soaring 157 m tower, a nave, beautiful stained-glass windows and works of art.
In World War II, the cathedral was bombed 14 times but managed to remain standing.
Cologne’s second-tallest structure is one of the largest cathedrals in the world, big enough to house 20,000 people.
Besides being a place for Catholic pilgrims, it’s also is one of the country’s most visited attractions and a famous German landmark.
Cologne Cathedral is at Dompropstei Margarethenkloster 5, 50667 Köln. You can explore on your own, but a guided tour will provide you with a more in-depth explanation of some of its secrets.
There’s a spiral staircase with 509 steps leading to a viewing platform with a fabulous view.
6- Romer Frankfurt
The gabled roofs of the neo-Gothic Romer building is an instantly recognisable German landmark that has provided shelter for Frankfurt’s city hall since 1405.
In 1405, two existing houses were converted into Frankfurt’s town hall, with exhibition halls on the ground level for trade fairs, official functions and weddings.
The iconic medieval building is in Römerplatz (Römer Square) in the Altstadt (Old Town) and is worthy of a photo.
The Kaisersaal (Emperor’s Hall) dates to 1612, and the complex now has 13 buildings.
7- Berlin Cathedral
The Neo-Renaissance architecture of the Berlin Cathedral graces the city’s skyline and is a historical landmark in Berlin.
Its grand architecture, with four towers and an imposing dome that is almost 100 m high, is a working Protestant church.
Berlin Cathedral started off as the court church for the rulers of Prussia, who later became Germany’s Emperors.
Back then, the 15th-century version of the cathedral belonged to the Berlin City Palace.
The neo-classical architecture was introduced later and completed in 1905, during the rule of the last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II.
Damages during World War II meant a major restoration had to be done, and the cathedral reopened in 1993.
Berlin Cathedral is at Am Lustgarten, 10178 Berlin. Guided tours are available every 20 minutes and are part of the entrance fee.
8- Nymphenburg Palace
Like most palaces in Europe, Nymphenburg Palace went through different phases of development over the centuries and is the legacy of five rulers who all left their marks on the palace.
The initial construction of Nymphenburg Palace began in 1664, and the palace complex was completed in 1679.
The lovely gardens were designed in the style of the gardens of Versailles in France.
In 1715, Max Emanuel brought artisans and painters from France to develop Nymphenburg, and it was redesigned yet again when Bavaria became a kingdom in the 19th century.
King Ludwig I (1825 to 1848) commissioned Joseph Stieler to paint the Gallery of Beauties, which is a well-known room in the palace.
36 portraits of beautiful women from all classes of society hang on the wall of the gallery, from shoemaker’s daughter Helene Sedlmayr’s painting, “Schöne Münchnerin” (the Beauty of Munich), to Lola Montez, who was involved in the 1848 revolution that ended in the abdication of Ludwig I.
Another part of the palace to visit is the palace’s stable museum with its impressive range of carriages and sleighs, making a visit to the palace one of the top things to do in Munich.
Nymphenburg Palace is at Schloß Nymphenburg 1, 80638 München, Germany.
9- Brandenburg Gate
Built by the King of Prussia, Frederick William II, the 18th-century Brandenburg Gate is in the style of the Acropolis in Athens.
One of the features of this lovely sandstone monument is a sculpture of the Goddess of Victory known as The Quadriga, which has been a symbol on the gate since 1793 except for the years between 1806 and 1814 when Napoleon captured it and took the statue to France.
The Brandenburg Gate is Berlin’s most famous landmark and where visitors could look behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.
In 1987, US President Ronald Regan delivered a speech at the Brandenburg Gate urging the Soviet leader, Mr Gorbachov, to tear down the wall.
The Brandenburg Gate is an iconic spot to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Berlin.
Brandenburg Gate is at Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin.
10- Beethoven Monument
Germany’s most famous musical composer, Ludwig van Beethoven, was born in Bonn, so it’s not surprising to find a few monuments and museums that pay tribute to the musical genius.
Beethoven influenced music history in Europe by not conforming to the traditional musical norms of the time.
He wrote his first work before the age of 12 in 1782.
He went on to compose nine symphonies, 32 piano sonatas, violin sonatas, an opera, five piano concertos and many pieces of chamber music.
His most famous works are Moonlight Sonata, Fur Elise, Eroica Symphony and Symphony No 5.
Some of his best works were composed when he was deaf.
There are several sculptures and statues of Beethoven in Bonn, including the famous 1845 Beethoven Monument in Münsterplatz that was erected to honour the composer’s 75th anniversary of his birth.
In front of the Beethovenhalle, BEETHON is a concrete sculpture created by Professor Klaus Kammerichs that has become a modern landmark of Bonn.
2020 is a great year to visit Bonn as the German government is spending more than €40 million to celebrate the composer’s 250th birth anniversary year (from 16 December 2019 to 17 December 2020).
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11- Monument to the Battle of the Nations
Austria, Prussia, Russia and Sweden combined forces to defeat Napoleon in an epic battle that lasted from 16 to 19 October 1813.
It’s one of the significant events on Napoleon’s downward trajectory and was followed by the Battle of Toulouse in 1814 and the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when Napoleon was finally defeated.
Völkerschlachtdenkmal, which is granite and concrete monument, marks a spot on the battlefield close to the command post of Napoleon.
It stands 91 m high and has a platform where visitors can get a bird’ s-eye view of the former battlefield, Leipzig and the surrounding countryside.
At the base is the FORUM 1813 museum, which has displays with detailed accounts of the Battle of the Nations, uniforms, weapons and other paraphernalia.
The Monument to the Battle of the Nations is at Str. Des 18. Oktober 100, 04299 Leipzig, Germany. It’s open from April to October (10 am to 6 pm) and November to March (10 am to 4 pm). Admission is 8€ for adults (free for children under 6). The museum is free for under 18’s.
12- Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th-century castle on a hill above the village of Hohenschwangau in southwest Bavaria and is one of the most photographed of all the Bavarian castles.
With spires, towers, a courtyard, and indoor, this fairytale castle is an enchanting landmark in Germany.
Commissioned by Ludwig II as a tribute to German composer Richard Wagner (who never visited Neuschwanstein), the castle has a dramatic interior designed by an opera set designer.
Most impressive is the Singers Hall, paintings of scenes from Wagner’s operas and an artificial grotto that drew inspiration from the Wagnerian opera Tannhauser.
Neuschwanstein’s foundation stone was laid in September 1869, and the castle sits on a site that once held two smaller castles.
It took a few years to build, and the topping-out ceremony was held on 29 January 1880.
Many of the castle’s luxuries were extravagant for its time, such as hot running water, flushing toilets, telephone lines and central heating.
The king was a fan of technology and built an elevator that connected the dining table with the kitchen three stories beneath.
A highlight is the two-story throne room designed to resemble a Byzantine basilica with stars on its blue-vaulted ceiling and grand columns.
Neuschwanstein is now a museum belonging to the state government of Bavaria and is managed by the state department for historic buildings, lakes and gardens.
Neuschwanstein is at Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany. The nearest train station is at Füssen, where you can connect with a public bus to the castles in Hohenschwangau.
A German landmark symbolising democracy, Reichstag is home to the German parliament and one of the most visited buildings in the country.
An architectural and historically significant building, it was modelled after the Philadelphia Memorial Hall in Philadelphia and completed in 1894.
In 1990, it was the venue of the reunification ceremony.
A 1995 restoration by Norman Foster brought it up back to the standard expected of the German national parliament.
Besides housing the Parliament, Reichstag also has a significant art collection with a rotating programme of exhibitions and the Käfer Dachgarten Restaurant.
Reichstag is at Platz der Republik 1, Berlin.
14- Eagles Nest
The Eagles Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) sits on a rocky outcrop above the Obersalzberg mountains near the town of Berchtesgaden.
It is an infamous German landmark and a hideaway for Adolf Hitler and Nazi Party members.
It’s hard to imagine how one of the most beautiful parts of Bavaria was where decisions that led to the holocaust were made.
Blasted out of solid rock, the road to the Eagle’s Nest has a series of switchbacks crossing the Kehlstein mountain and is only accessible via a mountain bus service.
An elevator shaft buried in the mountain leads up to the historic building, now a restaurant where visitors can dine in the spot where Hitler, Eva Braun and Himmler once sat.
Eagles Nest is near the town of Berchtesgaden.
Opened in 1933, Dachau concentration camp in Bavaria was the first Nazi concentration camp.
Although the camp’s original purpose was to be as a place to imprison political prisoners, Dachau became a model for other SS prison camps.
The grounds of an abandoned munitions factory about 16 km from Munich was a concentration camp for 12 years.
206,206 prisoners were held here, resulting in the deaths of 31,951.
Auschwitz came later, in 1940 in Oswiecim, a Polish city annexed to the Third Reich, as a concentration camp and became an extermination centre in 1942, where around 1.1 million people died.
Dachau Memorial Site is at Pater-Roth-Str. 2a, D – 85221, Dachau.
16- European Central Bank Building
In 1957, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome to form the European Union.
In June 1998, the Treaty of Amsterdam established the European Central Bank as the monetary authority for the Eurozone.
Its role is to define monetary policy for all 19 member states in the zone and manage the Euro Europe’s single currency.
The ECB maintains price stability by adjusting the benchmark interest rate (the rate that commercial banks can borrow from the central bank) and controlling the amount of currency circulated.
The ECB chose to build its headquarters on the site of Grossmarkthalle, Frankfurt’s former wholesale market hall.
The role of the President of the European Union rotates on a six-monthly cycle, and it’s Germany’s turn again between July and December 2020.
The European Central Bank is at Sonnemannstrasse 22, 60314 Frankfurt am Main. Attend a lecture, join a tour or visit the ECB Visitor Centre to learn more about how it works by looking at the audio-visual educational displays.
17- Berlin Wall
Constructed in 1961 to stop the tide of Germans from leaving East Berlin, the Berlin Wall was more than a physical structure that divided East Berlin from West Berlin.
It became a symbol of the Cold War along with the political and ideological rifts that divided Europe after World War II.
In 1949, Germany split into the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the Soviet Union-controlled German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
The erection of the Berlin Wall was felt beyond Europe, triggering a relationship crisis between the USA and the Soviet Union.
The wall itself came to symbolise the Cold War.
Then on 9 November 1989, the wall fell after a series of events that led to 500,000 protestors gathering at the East Berlin side.
Surprisingly, the fall of the Berlin Wall was a result of the lack of communication between the officials and border guards.
The Soviet Union had intended to allow small controlled changes to the travel restrictions.
The lack of clear instructions, along with the pressure of a crowd of 500,000 people, led to the border guard to decide to open the gates.
In Berlin, the wall was 45 km (28 miles) and extended through Germany for a further 120 km (75 miles).
30 years after the Berlin Wall fell, you can see the wall in several places in Berlin including Checkpoint Charlie (Friedrichstraße 43-45, Mitte) and the Berlin Wall Memorial (Bernauer Straße 111, Mitte).
The wall’s longest section that’s still standing is at East Side Gallery (Mühlenstraße 3-100, Friedrichshain).
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Modern Landmarks in Germany
18- Berlin Tower
The 368 m high Berlin Tower opened in 1969 and is one of the most famous landmarks in Germany built in recent times.
The tower was a landmark of East Germany, designed to display the might of communism.
The Observation Deck is 203m above Berlin, where you can have a drink in the highest bar in Berlin while enjoying a breathtaking view.
The restaurant rotates once an hour and the tower is one of the best places to go for a New Year’s Eve party to remember.
Berlin Tower is at Panoramastraße 1A, 10178 Berlin, Germany.
19- Mercedes Benz Museum
As Karl Benz invented the first car in 1886 (the three-wheeled Motorwagen with the first internal combustion engine), one of the top German landmarks should be the uber-contemporary Mercedes Benz Museum.
The nine-level Mercedes-Benz Museum has 1,500 exhibits displaying automotive history, from the first patented car in the world to the hydrogen vehicle.
It is an elegant architectural landmark in Germany.
The building has 1800 triangular windowpanes, 33m ceilings with no supports, no closed rooms or straight walls.
The shell is constructed with aluminium and glass used to manufacture cars.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum is at Mercedesstraße 100, 70372 Stuttgart, Germany and is open to the public.
20- Porsche Museum
The Porsche museum is a bold and dynamic architectural statement of polygonal avant-garde forms constructed from steel and concrete.
The museum opened in 2009 and is an architectural landmark of Germany with 80 cars on display including the Porsche 356 (the first Porsche, built in 1948), 550, 911 and 917.
Ferdinand Porsche also designed the Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton, in 1898 and the famous VW Beetle.
The most historically significant Type 64 was designed in 1939 and had a lightweight aluminium body drawing on the technology used to create WWII aircraft.
Combine your visit to the museum with a factory tour (weekdays), which begins in the museum itself.
The Porsche Museum is at Porscheplatz 1, 70435 Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.
21- Elbphilharmonie Hamburg
An interesting thing about Herzog and De Meuron’s $843 million Elbphilharmonie hall in Hamburg is that the designers used algorithms to generate 10,000 unique shapes for the gypsum fibre acoustic panels on the walls of the auditorium.
The gleaming wave-like façade graces Hamburg’s skyline, and the new building sits like a crown on top of the Kaispeicher A building.
The old building was constructed between 1963 and 1966 and used as a warehouse until the end of the last century.
Inside are philharmonic and chamber music halls, restaurants, bars and a terrace with views of Hamburg and the harbour.
The building also houses apartments, a hotel (the Westin Hamburg) and parking but the heart of the complex is the Elbphilharmonie.
The Elbphilharmonie is at Platz der Deutschen Einheit 4, 20457 Hamburg and is Germany a unique German landmark that can be seen from far away. It’s home to the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester.
22- Geierlay Suspension Bridge
The 360 metres (1,180 ft) Geierlay Suspension Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in Germany and one of the newest German landmarks for daredevils to discover.
The bridge is 100 metres (330 ft) above ground and set in a picturesque forest between the towns of Morsdorf and Sosberg, near the border between Germany and Luxembourg.
Built in 2015, the bridge is on the Saar-Hunsrück-Steig walking trail.
Walking the Geierlay Suspension Bridge is free.