Berlin is cool, edgy and rebellious — and unapologetically so. Aside from being Germany’s groovy capital, it is also its largest city, a beacon of classic and alternative art movements and a checkerboard of history and culture. Freedom of expression rules here, so after you arrive and settle into your hotel, prepare to see all sides of this diverse city.
You’ll begin your adventure with a walking tour that’ll take you past the famous Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag (where politicians make important decisions) and Gendarmenmarkt square, where you’ll hear about plagues and wars, the Konzerthaus (a theater and concert hall) and the quirky rivalry between the domed German and French cathedrals.
As evening nears, you’ll stroll along Unter den Linden Boulevard, passing significant cultural and historical sites — such as Babelplatz, the State Library and Museum Island —before being taken to one of the trendiest restaurants in Berlin, La Soup Populaire. The transformed warehouse, which is run by two-Michelin-star chef and owner, Tim Raue, endeavors to bridge the gap between gastronomy and art. The menu draws inspiration from its revolving art exhibitions and traditional German cuisine, making it a fitting way to finish your first day.
Many things have come to pass in Germany’s capital; some of them dark and foreboding, some of them triumphant and touching and others still quite unbelievable. Today, after breakfast, you’ll get to discover these sides of Berlin on a modern history walking tour.
Learn of Berlin’s involvement in the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945, as you pass by eerie monuments that still stand as evidence of the past. See the remains of the Gestapo headquarters, peer into underground Nazi bunkers and stand on the unmarked and unremarkable spot under which (in a former bunker) Hitler took his final breath.
Along your journey your guide will provide you with anecdotes — harrowing, tragic and humorous at times — of the years leading up to and during World War II. You’ll then move forward in time to the erection of the infamous Berlin Wall. You’ll visit Checkpoint Charlie, where American and Soviet forces faced off during the peak of the Cold War, before walking along a part of the former wall and listening to stories of bravery, oppression and daring escapes. Your guide will also tell you of the historic night in 1989 when the Ossis (East Germans) first stormed their way to the other side, and show you remnants of the wall.
The rest of the afternoon will be yours to spend on Museum Island. The UNESCO World Heritage Site holds five internationally-significant museums: The Altes Museum (old museum) where you’ll find antiques and classical art, the Neues Museum (new museum) known for its Egyptian and prehistoric exhibitions, the Alte Nationalgalerie (the Old National Gallery) which boasts an impressive art collection, the Bode Museum which houses important sculpture, art and coin exhibitions and the Pergamon Museum renown for its Islamic and Middle Eastern showcases. Choose the ones that take your fancy and connect with Berlin’s cultural side.
In the evening, give your eyes a rest and allow your other senses to take over as you enjoy dinner at “dark restaurant”, unsicht-Bar. Attended by blind or visually impaired staff, you’ll be led to your table through a pitch-black dining room (where your eyes will never adjust) and enjoy a four-course dining experience.
It’s hard to conceive that any city in Germany could compete with Berlin’s cool style and cultural panache and yet, at least according to the locals, there is such a place. Hamburg, takes the honors as Germany’s favorite city. See what all the fuss is about as you board an Intercity Express train that’ll get you there in just under two hours.
Upon arrival, a local guide will take you to your hotel to freshen up. Then, once you’re ready, you’ll head off on a walking tour. Your first stop will be the opulent neo-renaissance Rathaus (town hall), which stands as a reminder of Hamburg’s historical importance and wealth. After exploring some of its 647 rooms, you’ll head north to the Alsterarkaden, historic arcades which combine shopping with a rich cultural experience and — possibly — lunch. Here you’ll also find Hamburg’s oldest existing shopping arcade, the Mellin-Passage, where you can admire historic painted ceilings as you window shop.
In the afternoon, you’ll stroll through the Altstadt (old town), while listening to legends of the pirate Störtebeker who stood trial and was executed in Hamburg, the role of the Hanseatic League in the development of the city and, of course, the infamous fire of 1842 that destroyed a quarter of the city. On your journey you’ll see the medieval St Petri church, the Chilehaus (an architectural masterpiece of architect Fritz Höger which resembles an ocean liner), stroll across the Trostbrücke, which has been reincarnated many times since the 13th century, spend time near the oldest port, Binnenhafen, and the immense historic warehouse complex of Speicherstadt, and view the future at Hafen City, Europe’s largest rebuilding project.
You’ll have the evening free to do as you will. If you’re brave and curious, you might want to tale the time to check out the city’s infamous red light and clubbing district, the Reeperbahn.
Wake up early and wave goodbye to Hamburg and hello to Germany’s network of Autobahns, as you set off on a road trip south. Gaze out the window and admire the landscape as you listen to stories of ancient settlers, the Romans, the “Christianisation” of the area and the Thirty Years’ War.
After an easy one-hour drive, your first stop will be the historic city of Bremen. Begin with a walking tour through its medieval center, an area that has been occupied since 12000 BC, was a member of the Hanseatic League and is the setting for a Brothers Grimm story. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rathaus (town hall) will give you your first glimpse of local history with its intricate renaissance façade and Roland statue. You’ll then move onto the Bremen Town Musicians statue where you’ll hear the fairy-tale and rub a donkey’s legs to claim a wish. Before lunch, you’ll also see the tallest building in town, St Peter’s Cathedral, and stroll the 16th century lanes of the Schnoor quarter, admiring its charming half-timbered houses. Then, when hunger strikes, the Ratskeller — Germany’s oldest wine cellar which dates back to 1409 — will be happy to oblige with a glass of wine and traditional cuisine.
Another hour’s drive will see you in Münster, the bicycle capital of Germany, where you’ll spend the afternoon exploring the old town and its many coffee and cake shops. While here, check out St Lambert’s church, the steeple of which has the honor of housing three 16th century cages that once held the bodies of Münster rebellion leaders, the town hall in which the treaty that ended the Thirty and Eighty Years’ Wars was signed and the opulent Erbdorstenhof Palace. As the day moves into late afternoon, leave for your final destination: Cologne. An easy two-hour drive will see you comfortably settled in your hotel.
Dating back to 38BC, Cologne has seen the rule of Germanic tribes, Romans, archbishops, enjoyed a stint as a free city and had a run under Napoleon and Prussia, before (barely) surviving two world wars. Indeed 95% of the city was destroyed during the Second World War, which means that much of the city is now made up of post-war and reconstructed medieval buildings. However, if you look close enough, you’ll find original remnants of the city’s past.
Your first connection with this past will be at the Rathaus (town hall), which is the oldest of its kind in Germany. Here you’ll be met by your guide, who’ll tell you of the history of Cologne, the 600-year-old town hall and the ancient Roman Praetorium (general’s tent), which lies beneath it. You’ll then stop at the Alter Markt (the old marketplace) where colorful houses and hilarious legends will keep you entertained. Learn the story behind the Kallendressers sculpture (of a person peeing in a gutter) and the ancient Roman shipwreck which was discovered during the construction of the local light rail. Equally humorous will be the Tünnes und Schäl statues that represent characters from Cologne’s puppet theater…and its citizens. Finally you’ll explore the breathtaking Groß St Martin, a Romanesque church that dates back to the 1st century.
As the afternoon nears, stop at the fish market, a charming historic area by the river, where you can enjoy an authentic meal and a glass of Kölsch (the local brew) at one of the many pubs.
After your meal, check out the lovers’ padlocks on Hohenzollern Bridge, before heading for the famous Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral). The iconic cathedral is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also Germany’s most visited landmark. End your historical tour at the Roman gate, where you’ll learn more about Cologne’s Roman past, then finish your day at the delectable chocolate museum.
After breakfast, board a flight and zip over to the capital of Bavaria, Munich. A limousine will pick you up from the airport and take you to your hotel in the heart of the city, where your tour guide will meet you at the lobby and take you on a walking tour of the old town.
Begin in bustling Marienplatz where you’ll admire both the old and new town halls and hear the history of Munich — from humble beginnings to royal escapades and the role beer has played throughout its history. Follow your tour guide to the Frauenkirche and listen to the tale of the devil’s footprint, then make your way down to Odeonsplatz, a large historic square, and settle in for lunch at a café in the Hofgarten, the royal garden at the back of the Residenz palace.
After lunch, walk through the old town, past the Residenz, the National Theatre Munich and through narrow alleyways until you reach the famous Hofbräuhaus. Stop over for a refreshing beer, before continuing on to Viktualienmarkt, an outdoor marketplace full of fresh produce, flowers and local delicacies. Then continue to Sankt-Jakobs-Platz to see the modern Ohel Jakob synagogue and then the Sendlinger Tor, a 14th century city gate. As evening nears, head to the Olympic Park, where you’ll enjoy a gourmet Bavarian meal and sweeping views at Restaurant 181, a rotating restaurant at the Olympic Tower.
Spend the morning seeing the greener side of Munich by strolling the English Gardens and sneaking in one more Bavarian beer or Spezi (a carbonated mix of coke and Fanta favored by the locals) and a pretzel in the beer garden around the Chinese Pagoda. Then say, “Auf Wiedersehen” to Germany as you head to the airport and board your plane home.
Germany is a land of contrasts, history, culture and fairytales. Explore them all on a magical tour that’ll take you from north to south on an unforgettable seven-day adventure.
Crafted for 2020-2021, begin your trip in the bustling capital of Berlin and get your fill of turbulent history, eerie landmarks and UNESCO Heritage-listed sites. Move on to Germany’s favorite city, Hamburg, where tales of pirates and Germany’s oldest port will await your wandering eyes. Next on your trip will be the historical towns of Bremen and Münster, where you’ll visit Germany’s oldest wine cellar, hear tales of wars, plagues and men in cages.
Further south, you’ll discover Germany’s most-visited landmark — the UNESCO Heritage-listed Cologne Cathedral — and see what remains of ancient Rome. Finally you’ll fly to Munich, home of Oktoberfest and one of the world’s quirkiest royal families. Walk the streets of its old town, listen to legends and try a pretzel and the famous Munich “helles” (pale lager).
$2095 per person (excluding international flights)
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