Germany city hop: Munich, Berlin & Hamburg
Words by Camie Juan
There is so much of Germany to explore – from the Alpine heights of Bavaria, to romantic roads and tiny timber towns.
But, to begin your journey and experience the height of Germany’s spirit-lifting culture and people, head to its biggest cities: Munich, with age-old traditions and home to Germany’s giant festival, Oktoberfest; Berlin, with its dark and fascinating history – a city which never sleeps – and will keep you up with it; and Hamburg, the bold port city, a ‘gateway to the world’ with its vibrant neighbourhoods.
Visiting each city turns a different page of Germany’s rich storybook: full of human history, grand cityscapes and cultural discoveries, this is a fascinating tale you’ll never want to finish, so follow our Germany city guide.
Hamburg: house parties, late night feasts, and summer beach bars
Hamburg may be a flourishing business hub, but Germany’s cosmopolitan second-city offers a heady mix of bustling trade and exciting alternative scenes to rival Berlin’s: follow the locals to some of the less obvious delights to get a real picture of what Hamburg has to offer, in summer or winter.Hamburg: house parties, eclectic nightlife and year-round entertainment
Stay for 3 nights:
The Fabrik – Flea Market & local culture
Located in the area of Ottensen, here you will find the marks of industrial history, cultural events (music, theatre and political readings), and an indoor flea market packed with unique treasures and relics offered up by Hamburg locals. The building dates from around 1840, at the time of the Gründerzeit, the booming economic phase in Germany before its crash in 1873. Its naval central hall is overlooked by running galleries, and an old crane hangs over the entrance as a memorial to its past.
Head to 3-Zimmer-Wohnung for a private house party, Hamburg style
Here you’ll find the best ‘private party’ in one of the city’s most curious streets. Make yourself at home in what is essentially a comfortable house setting: enjoy games at the kitchen table, chat with friends on the cosy couch, play video games in the bedroom, or dance in the basement. Every first and third Wednesday of the month, the house (bar) arranges readings: stories from famous or less famous authors are mixed with live music – and if you’re a budding writer, you can submit your own stories too!
Late night feasts at Erika’s Eck
A safe and tasty haven for Hamburg’s stranded late night folks, everyone from taxi drivers, to shift workers, to party people, gather here to sample some of the best hearty German food the city has to offer: roast pork or salmon sandwiches, weiner schnitzel, and a beer for the road: to be enjoyed after midnight – when the sandwiches are served.
Summer beach bar with a harbour sea breeze
Hamburg is ideal for an entertainment packed wintry break, but its seven beach bars make it the coolest summer city in Germany. Strandpauli bar allows you to enjoy the traditional German biergarten, but with a seaside slant; so walk around barefooted scrunching sand between your toes, with a cold beer on the Elbe River.
Berlin: arty tram trips, underground clubs and world-class museums
Berlin is famous for a few things: ceaseless partying, counter-culture, and a dark history which has left a visible mark. With its identity in mind, visiting Berlin should involve some checkpoints: a walk beside the Berlin Wall, and a visit to the Topography of Terror – a deeply stirring museum exhibiting the repression of the Nazi regime. For the ceaseless partying part, famous Berlin techno club Berghain is the obvious spot for round-the-clock dancing. We’ve got a few different ideas for you in the city that never sleeps.
Stay for 3 nights:
Catch the M1 tram for a 24 hour art fest
Running from the north to the middle of Berlin all day and all night, the M1 tram will take you from the “trash art” museum (next to Pankow subway station) up-cycling and lending new purpose to used objects, all the way through to the Pergamon Museum – centrally located, classical and imposing. There you have it – a transitional journey through art.
Long night of museums
With its museums exhibiting everything from films and art to currywurst and sex, the Lange Nacht der Museen (long night of the museum) invites you to explore Berlin’s vast museum landscape, from 6pm to 2am.
Underground and up all night at Silberfisch bar
Out of sight and open until at least 6am, walk into this den down the steps from Oranienburger Strasse, be greeted by friendly bar staff. It may be smoky, but you can enjoy quality DJs, an extensive drinks menu starting from just €3, and a loud, buzzy atmosphere – quintessential Berlin experience.
Techno heaven at Farbfernseher, a tiny answer to Berghain
Unknown to most, from the outside Farbfernseher just looks like an empty building on Skalitzer Strasse in Kreuzberg, marked only by an old television ad reading “Farbfernseher ab 98,- DM”. Inside, you will find Berlin’s wildest party-goers dancing to the thrum of the latest from the Berlin Techno scene. Bar? Check. Intimate setting and dancefloor? Check. Televised drinks menu? Check.
Munich: Bavarian castles, local food and friendly people
The city of Munich, Germany was one of my favourite cities I have ever travelled to in Europe. I don’t know what it is, but the city definitely has its own certain charm and the entire state of Bavaria is just absolutely breath-taking.
Stay for 2 nights:
Dachau Concentration Camp
When it comes to history, nothing interests me more than World War II, so Dachau is definitely a must-see place for me, but I would also recommend it as a place to visit even for those who know little about World War II. The war was a terrible time in Germany’s history, but places such as these are reminders of mistakes we as humans should never make again. Visiting Dachau Concentration Camp will not only open your eyes and understand the painful past of Germany and its people, but admire their ability to learn and rise above from it all. After a few years of reading and learning about Germany, I see it as a truly admiring nation.
Hohenschwangau & Neuschwanstein Castle
Another two must-see landmarks are both Neschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, which are both located within the vicinity of each other, outside of Munich. It’s only a few hours ride away from the city and is worth the day trip, especially if you’ve lived your entire life in a country where castles are non-existent! The castles are just magnificent and the historical background of each is interesting. I have not visited many castles in my life, but I already know Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau make it to my list of favourites. It is also worth noting that travelling to Schwangau (where these two castles are located) is breath-taking because you get to revel in the beauty that is Bavaria!
Marienplatz and local exploration
I stumbled onto Marienplatz accidentally. I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t Google search what it looked like or even how to get there. I just decided to get off the train station right under Marienplatz, and upon ascending the escalators, I wasn’t prepared for what was about to welcome me. I was taken away by the beauty the central square of Munich. Here I spent an entire afternoon shopping, and having a nice meal in the courtyard of Ratskeller inside the old town hall, where I people watched and walked around the area taking it all in.
After Marienplatz, I decided to take the train again and make a stop over to other parts of the city, where I experienced more of the “local” life rather than mostly being around tourists like myself.
The friendly spirit of German people
After touring much of Germany, I’ve learned that my favourite thing about the country is its people. Germans are friendly and accommodating, will help you if you get lost, and I loved that I was treated like a local instead of a tourist. The most common misconception about Germans is that they’re “aggressive” especially in speech. I’m glad to have debunked that ridiculous myth. I liked Germany even before I visited the country, but after my trip I have come to love every single thing about it.
It’s a country I would definitely come back to time and time again.