It’s almost impossible to do Germany in a week. Even two weeks is a bit too short to really get a flavor for the country without being exhausted from traveling all the time. Still, with a bit of prioritising, it is possible to have a leisurely whirlwind vacation in Germany if you can only stay for two weeks. Click here to find out how to get around Germany.
Day 1: Quedlinburg. It’s a three-hour train ride from Berlin to Quedlinburg, so be sure to leave early enough that you can arrive in the village/UNESCO World Heritage site by about 11 a.m. It’s adorable in and of itself and interesting to compare to Rothenburg if you happen to have been there, but the best thing is getting to ride a steam train up the mountain. Even more fun in winter.
Day 2: Essen. It’s another early start this morning for the five-hour train ride to Essen, but it’s worth it. Once you arrive at the HBF, take streetcar 107 or the S2 S-bahn to the Zollverein, Germany’s largest industrial museum/arts complex. First stop: the Casino Zollverein for a lunch you’ll remember for many years. After you’ve rested and refueled, use up all that energy exploring the massive monument to the steel industry, and now UNESCO World Heritage site, that once powered Germany. For the full experience, check the listings to see what concerts are on in the evening you’re visiting.
Days 3 – 4: Cologne. The first morning you can be at your leisure, as Cologne is just an hour from Essen by train and they leave multiple times an hour. It’s worth planning on eating well in Cologne. The Kölsch culture and customs are all about having a beer and watching the world go by. Try your hand at finishing a portion of Haxe at one of the many Brauhauses near the main station before venturing forth on an afternoon guided tour of the Kölner Dom. For dinner, push the boat out and head to Le Moissonnier, the best restaurant in town.
The next day, ease into things with a walk along the Rhine, starting near the train station and walking south along the Promenade. Pop into the Chocolate Museum or Mustard Museum if that’s your thing, aiming to end up at Die Fette Kuh for lunch. The burgers are otherworldly, but it’s not a place to linger. Catching the early-afternoon train to Cochem will get you there just in time to check in, have a tour around town, and grab dinner at a cafe.
Day 5: Burg Eltz. Probably the best-preserved Medieval castle in all of Germany, Burg Eltz is really the perfect place to indulge all your knight and damsel fantasies. Take the train from Cochem to Moselkern and walk though the forest for about an hour to get to the castle, or splurge on a taxi. Sleep at your hotel in Cochem and get ready for an early start to Heidelberg for the next day.
Day 6: Heidelberg. On everyone’s list of places to see in Germany, Heidelberg doesn’t disappoint. If you haven’t had your fill of castles, Heidelberg has a pretty impressive one, but the main fun of visiting the city is walking around the town, absorbing the 900 years of history and eating lots of cake. Treat yourself to some Malaysian food for lunch at Serai, one of the favorite restaurants in town among locals.
Day 7 – 8: Munich. You can go directly to Munich airport from Heidelberg in about three-and-a-half hours, so if you have an early flight it’s best to stay in an airport hotel and leave Heidelberg in the evening. If you have a bit more time, you could stop in Stuttgart on the way and hit the Mercedes Museum, but for a more leisurely end to your trip, go straight to Munich. go to Marienplatz and join one of the many free tours of the Munich Altstadt. It will help you get your bearings and learn a bit about the city. The tour will probably finish somewhere around 5 p.m., at which time you can stop for a coffee at one of the many lovely cafés in the centre of town.
The next day, head to the Blue Spa at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof to relax a bit. If the weather is nice, continue relaxing on the rooftop terrace through the afternoon. As an option, you can head to one of Munich’s many fine museums (art, technology, natural history) before getting a dinner at one of many of the city's restaurants.
Another option would be traveling to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. To get there, you will have to take a bus or train to Füssen, then another bus to the castle. Alternatively, book a tour from Munich.
Day 9: Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Get your fix of half-timbered houses, window boxes, and crooked, narrow little streets in the Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Just two-and-a-half hours by train from Munich Central station, have a look around town and then go for a leisurely, late lunch at the Altfränkische Weinstube before getting on the mid-afternoon train to Leipzig.
Day 10: Leipzig. One of Germany’s most ancient university towns, and for most of the 20th century practically falling apart, Leipzig is now one of the hottest places in the country – the words ‘New Berlin’ have been whispered. Sure, it’s the birthplace of Bach, but thanks to the recent start-up boom, there’s a lot of 21st-century fun to be had. Walk around town in the morning and explore Leipzig’s street art for the afternoon, head to its world-famous zoo or take a trip around the world at the Grassi museum. In the evening, head to one of Leipzig’s fantastic electro clubs, or go hear their world-class orchestra.
Day 11 – 14: Berlin. The train ride to Berlin is only 90 minutes, and there is at least one an hour all day, so there’s time to nip over to the Spinnerei before you leave town, a former cotton spinning factory in west Leipzig that is now full of galleries, artist ateliers, and cafés.
Once you’re in Berlin, get situated and head to Santa Maria for tacos in the hip neighbourhood of Kreuzberg in the eastern part of the city. While you’re over there, before or after eating depending on the daylight situation, take a Trabant tour – it’s ridiculous and informative. In the evening, get a water’s-eye view of the neighbourhood on a kayak tour.
If you're on a budget, there are also plenty of things to do in Berlin for free or for a fairly low cost.
Walk around town, take a free walking tour, visit Reichstag (book your visit in advance!), explore Alexanderplatz and the East Side Gallery, a famous piece of the Berlin Wall, now painted with hundreds of graffitis.
The next day, get a good breakfast in at the brunch spot closest to your hotel and head to the Museum Island for a dose of art, culture, science, and/or dinosaurs. After schlepping around the whole day, recharge at the Ampelmann restaurant and Biergarten. In the evening, either relax at a concert, the opera, or deep-dive into the electro scene in one of Berlin’s many techo clubs.