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With 46 UNESCO World Heritage sites and countless castles, museums, and national parks, planning a road trip through Germany is a thrilling undertaking. Get ready because we’ve charted a complete course with one must-visit stop in each German State, in perfect road trip order, just for you.

16 Essential Stops for the Ultimate Germany Road Trip

16 Essential Stops for the Ultimate Germany Road Trip

With 46 UNESCO World Heritage sites and countless castles, museums, and national parks, planning a road trip through Germany is a thrilling undertaking. Get ready because we’ve charted a complete course with one must-visit stop in each German State, in perfect road trip order, just for you.

Gearing up for a road trip through Germany? Then you already know it’s going to be epic. The good news is that you don’t have to start from square one. We’ve done the research and racked up the miles to put together the perfect itinerary that captures Germany’s most compelling highlights, one state at a time. It’s all smooth cruising from here.

This Great Big Guide is by the German National Tourism Board.

Berlin: The magnificent Museum Island

Germany roadtrip itinerary Berlin Museum Mile
Photo: GNTB Francesco Carovillano

Museum Mile

As the epicenter of Germany’s arts, culture, and fashion scene, Berlin—the nation’s capital—requires a decent amount of time to truly discover. Start your road trip here by driving straight into the heart of the historical district, Mitte, to spend the day exploring Museum Island, or Museumsinsel. The stunning complex, completely restored after the fall of the Berlin Wall, is comprised of five magnificent museums showcasing archaeological and artistic wonders like The Ishtar Gate and the bust of ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti.

Mecklenburg-West Pomerania: A Natural Wonder

Jasmund National Park

If you’re truly craving the great outdoors, head northeast to Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, one of Germany’s best-kept secrets. The state on the coast of the Baltic Sea is teeming with untouched nature, much of it in Jasmund National Park on the island of Rügen. The park’s ancient beech forests are a lush oasis of greenery, flowers, and wildlife. Look up and you might catch a white-tailed eagle soaring above a lineup of spectacular chalk cliffs, like the famous Königsstuhl.

Photo: GNTB Francesco Carovillano

Schleswig-Holstein: A fairytale castle

Germany road trip itinerary Holstentor Castle
Photo: GNTB Francesco Carovillano

Holstentor Castle

Be sure to navigate your way to the “land between two seas,” otherwise known as Schleswig-Holstein. There’s plenty to love about Germany’s northernmost state, including the largest national park in central Europe—Wadden Sea National Park—and the nation’s only high-sea island—Heligoland. Definitely plan a pit stop at the jaw-dropping Holstentor Castle. With dramatic spires and terracotta frieze details, it looks straight out of a fairy tale. Inside, you’ll find suits of armor, weapons, and other ancient artifacts.

Hamburg: A world in giant miniature

Miniatur Wunderland

Hamburg is one of Europe’s most dynamic hubs of shipping and trade, and has even been dubbed Germany’s “Gateway to the World.” The northern city-state is a labrynth of intersecting canals peppered with areas of pristine nature. However, the best reason to pass through Hamburg—specifically the city of Speicherstadt—is to see its famous Miniatur Wunderland in motion. The world’s most massive model train exhibit spans an astonishing 50,000 feet, with trains running through meticulously detailed replicas of Hamburg, the Austrian Alps, Scandinavia, and more.

Photo: Miniatur Wunderland

Lower Saxony: A salt-mining super star

Photo Courtesy Of: Deutsches Salzmuseum

German Salt Museum

This coastal city-state in northwest Germany is the ideal stop for outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, canoeing, and horseback riding. The city of Lüneburg was once the capital of salt production, and today you can learn all about the “white gold” industry on an off-the-beaten-path adventure to the German Salt Museum. The former site of the Lüneburg Saltworks factory astounds visitors through interactive exhibits and artifacts dating back to the Middle Ages.

Bremen: A street inspired by coffee

Böttcherstrasse

The port city of Bremerhaven is just one of the highlights of Bremen, a state in northwestern Germany that was immortalized in the Brothers Grimm fairytale Town Musicians. Thanks to the area’s longstanding sea trade culture, coffee became a major import—and eventually, a coffee magnate named Ludwig Roselius would be responsible for one of the area’s most popular attractions. In the 1920s, he commissioned artist Bernhard Hoetger to design Böttcherstraße (Coopers’ Street), a charming road lined with brick Gothic, Expressionist and Art Deco buildings.

Photo: GNTB Francesco Carovillano

North Rhine-Westphalia: The Coal-Mining Capital

Photo: GNTB Francesco Carovillano

Zollverein Industrial Complex

North Rhine-Westphalia contains some of western Germany’s hottest shopping areas, eateries, and nightclubs in cities like Cologne and Düsseldorf. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover this densely populated state was once a major industrial hub and home to one of Europe’s largest mining towns. Make a pit stop at the Zollverein Industrial Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to explore a fully preserved former coal mining facility that now serves as a shrine to the region’s history.

Hessen: A wonder of waterworks

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe

This west-central state has it all: historical Old Towns, bustling cities, verdant nature, and even a health and wellness scene. In the city of Kasselis you’ll find Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, a UNESCO-protected hillside park that’s not to be missed. Tour a hypnotic landscape packed with palaces, castles, and a boatload of state-of-the-art waterworks, starting with the stunning grand cascade waterfall and ending at the geyser-like grand fountain. Overlooking the park is a hulking copper statue of Hercules.

Photo: Robert Koester MHK

Rhineland-Palatinate: An aristocratic palace

Photo: GNTB Florian Trykowski

Eltz Castle

Sprawled out along the Rhine River in southwestern Germany is the picturesque state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The state is packed with vineyards, museums, and castles—and the most fascinating of all is the 850-year-old Eltz Castle. The opulent palace is now a museum showcasing medieval suits of armor, 15th century murals, and Renaissance-era furnishings that once belonged to the Eltz-Rübenach family. It’s surrounded by the 3,000-acre Eltz Forest, a nature reserve that’s home to stunning exotic flora and fauna.

Saarland: A stunning stroll around the river

Saarschleife

Germany’s smallest state was once occupied by France, with whom it shares a border. Today, Saarland is known as “Little France” because of the lingering influence—and the fact that French is its official second language. This southwestern state’s showstopper is its treetop trail, Saarschleife: an elevated, three-quarter-mile walkway that passes through Douglas firs and oak trees and does a loop around the river. Your excursion peaks at the top of a 137-foot observation tower with a breathtaking view of the river twisting through the mountains.

Photo: GNTB Jens Wegener

Baden-Wurttemberg: A Storybook Castle

Hohenzollern Castle Germany
Photo: GNTB Francesco Carovillano

Hohenzollern Castle

Welcome to Germany’s most southwestern state. Baden-Württemberg boasts a stunningly diverse landscape of woodlands, waterways, meadows, and mountain ranges. This is the place to embark on a Black Forest trek or indulge your fascination for Medieval architecture, like the 19th-century Hohenzollern Castle, a formidable, Neo-Gothic labor of love commissioned by Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia in 1817. Drop your car off in the parking lot and enjoy a chauffeured ride straight to the castle door.

Bavaria: A very curious clock

Rathaus-Glockenspiel Clock

If your route takes you past Germany’s Bavarian Alps in autumn—and you happen to be a beer lover—you’re in luck. The country’s annual Oktoberfest celebration happens right in Munich, the capital city of southeastern Bavaria. The area is famous for its 100-year-old Rathaus-Glockenspiel clock on Munich’s town hall building. This is not your average cuckoo clock. A few times a day, it uses 32 animated figurines to reenact the wedding of an iconic German duke.

Bavaria Glockenspiel
Photo: GNTB Saskia Wehler

Thuringia: A record-breaking bridge

Photo: Erfurt Tourismus Marketing GmbH Steven Cozort

Krämerbrücke

Thüringen is an impressive free state in east-central Germany, known as a leader in green technology and renewable energy practices. It also has a rich cultural history and gorgeous landscapes packed with forests and mountain ranges. Krämerbrücke (Merchant's Bridge in English) is its historic stone bridge, which crosses the the Gera River and bisects the city of Erfurt. More than five dozen houses were built atop the structure, making it the longest inhabited bridge in the world.

Saxony: A celebrated cathedral

Church of Our Lady

Enjoy views of the Ore mountains and rows of carefully preserved historic buildings during your drive through this independent, landlocked state in eastern Germany. Make sure to stop in the city of Dresden, home to lavish Baroque and Rococo architecture— and take in a concert at its grand cathedral, Church of Our Lady, also known as Frauenkirche church. The protestant church was built in 1726, was nearly levelled in World War II, and has since been lovingly restored to host musicians from all over the world.

Photo: GNTB Francesco Carovillano

Saxony-Anhalt: A surreal sculpture park

Melt Music Festival at Ferropolis
Photo: Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ferropolis

Saxony-Anhalt in central Germany holds the distinction of having the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz, an 18th-century park that flaunts 34 square miles of brilliant landscape design. However, a different kind of park—an outdoor sculpture park, to be exact—is this state’s not-so-hidden gem. Ferropolis, dubbed "the city of iron," is an outdoor museum scattered with colossal, 20th-century industrial machines as art. Each summer, Ferropolis hosts the Melt! music festival among its towering exhibits.

Brandenburg: the quaint Dutch Quarter

Potsdam Dutch Quarter

Formerly the kingdom of Prussia, Brandenburg’s aristocratic roots hold strong thanks to copious castles throughout the eastern state, including the one-time summer home of Frederick the Great. Fuel up in the historic Dutch Quarter in Potsdam, a charming little neighborhood where cafes, craft stores, and antique shops offer a welcome respite to the weary roadtripper. “Little Netherlands” also hosts special events, like the fall potter’s market and spring tulip festival.

Photo: GNTB Florian Trykowski

Wrap up your tour by driving back to Berlin from Potsdam (approximately a 45 minute drive) and you will have successfully driven through all of Germany's states in logical order.

Germany has everything you’re looking for in a European road trip: vibrant cities, charming towns, unspoiled nature, historical landmarks—and did we mention castles? We hope you enjoy your trip navigating this fascinating nation. Gute reise!