In honor of Germany's recent triumph at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, let's take a look at some top attractions throughout the country, including some hidden gems. Courtesy of the Telegraph and our sister publication Luxury Travel Advisor, here are a few places soccer fans (and nature fans, and car fans) should visit throughout Germany.
Six members of Germany's soccer team play for Bayern Munich, the team that has dominated the Bundesliga for decades. Visitors can watch the team play in the Allianz Arena, which (perhaps somewhat fortuitously), was built when Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006. For tickets, visit fcbayern.de/en.
For authentic dining in Munich, head to the Viktualienmarkt and go upstairs to Rischart (Marienplatz 18), an outdoor café that is ideal for people-watching. Be sure to ask for some of the city's signature sausage and real German sausages with mustard. Downstairs, Lecker Bissen serves roasted sausages on a bun in the form of rostbratwurst, rauchzipferl and gekuhite erfrischungs-getranke.
In Berlin, be sure to visit some of the memorials and monuments, including several that recognize the many different groups (Jews, gay people, Roma people, etc.) killed by the Nazis. The most historic square in Berlin, Bebelplatz, has a glass plate set into the pavers at its middle. Beneath it is a room with empty bookshelves to recognize the notorious Nazi book burning of 1933.
Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany, is in the midst of a multi-year project to reclaim its maritime heritage by shifting the center of its urban activities and new building development toward its waterfront harbor on the Elbe River. The focus of development is HafenCity Hamburg, located between the city’s warehouse district, one of the world’s largest, and the river. Scheduled to be completed by 2025, the HafenCity project includes apartments, businesses, and cultural, tourism and leisure attractions. It will expand Hamburg’s existing city center by an estimated 40 percent.
Germany is also famous for its Christmas markets, which can be found in almost every city and town. (Nuremburg claims to have the oldest of the markets.) These markets run throughout the Advent period from late November through the third week in December (some stay open a bit later), and are a great way to experience local crafts, foods and traditions.
Plenty of tour operators offer visits to the Christmas markets, and Scenic Cruises is set to offer two eight-day Christmas market trips later this year. On December 1, a cruise from Nuremburg to Amsterdam will visit markets in Bamberg, Wurzburg, Rudesheim and Cologne and Amsterdam. Bonus: Cruise guests will spend the day as an invited guest of the small village of Wertheim, where they’ll experience European village life as a local.
For another way to tour the country, Tauck recently christened a new riverboat that is expected to sail the Danube this year. The ms Savor's “The Blue Danube” and “Danube Reflections” itineraries are fully inclusive. Uniworld, meanwhile, has three new Danube itineraries set to launch next year, and will also launch a new ship, the S.S. Maria Theresa.
And for a different kind of outdoor experience, consider Sylt on the North Sea at the border of Germany and Denmark. The island is connected by a manmade causeway that crosses the marshlands of the Ostsee Canal connecting the North Sea on the west to the Baltic Sea on the east. The island has 8,000 hotel beds, plus many island guest cottages and apartment rentals. There are 12 full-service hotels on the island and four golf courses, including seaside links golf on the Marine Golf Club and BudersandSylt Golf Club, named by www.top100Golfclub.com of the UK as one of the world’s best layouts. Sylt is home to at least a half-dozen luxury health spas. One is the Quiara Spa at the Hotel Stadt Hamburg, a Relais & Chateux property that hosted our American group in the town of Westerland.
Berlin hotels are offering special packages to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall:
At the Westin, guests can literally bring a piece of Berlin home with them, by chipping their own wall piece from an original piece of the wall, guest can also enjoy a traditional currywurst alongside a glass of champagne.
Kempinksi Hotel Berlin is offering a ''wall surprise’’ alongside a personally guided trabi tour, where guests will get to experience a little of Berlin’s eastern European past in a novel trabant.
The Maritime ProArt hotel has a two-night anniversary package, which will include an original Berlin currywust, sparkling wine and free admission to the GDR museum.
As for getting to Germany: Lufthansa is offering seasonal A380 service between Frankfurt and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (LH400/LH401) through October. The airline is also upgrading its business class seats and expects to install total of 7,000 full-flat bed seats on 106 long-haul aircraft. For its new Premium Economy Class, Lufthansa is launching a new seat that will give passengers up to 50 percent more room. Nice touches: Passengers will get real porcelain tableware with their meal service, and can take a second item of luggage with them at no extra charge.