A Quick Travel Guide to the 3 Biggest Cities in Germany
Germany is a vast and diverse country. In fact, it’s the largest country in Central Europe. Each of the country’s 16 states has a unique take on what many outsiders blanket as “German culture”. But spend some time in her three largest cities, and you’ll have a new appreciation for the nuances that each offers. Here’s our guide to the biggest cities in Germany.
The 3 biggest cities in Germany
Berlin has a fascinating, gritty underbelly, intriguing history, vibrant culture, and an infectious creative spirit. Of course, it also has an insane party scene that ticks over pretty much any day – and any hour – of the week.
Find a way to explore all of these elements, and you’ll realize why those in the know bypass Europe’s other top contenders and head straight for the German capital.
Must see: Take a free walking tour from the Brandenburg Gate and peer back into Berlin’s fascinating and troubled past.
Insider tips: Rather than try to cover the whole city, choose a quirky neighborhood or region. Immerse yourself in the local bars, clubs, and cafés for a few days before trying to “do” the city.
How to get there: Berlin’s main station is in the heart of the city. Trains arrive from all corners of the country and from several international neighbors. Overnight trains from Amsterdam, Zurich, Vienna, and Budapest also arrive each day. Berlin is big, so you may need to use the S-Bahn to get to your final destination. Your Eurail Pass is valid on the S-Bahn.
Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city and biggest port. In many ways it feels like a more manageable and accessible Berlin. There are several vibrant neighborhoods dotted throughout the city that offer diverse eateries, quirky bars, and popular nightclubs. The Reeperbahn district is also worth a quick visit.
But the true appeal of Hamburg lies in its old-world maritime charm. It reveals itself in classic architecture, squawking seagulls, quiet docks, and hulking container ships that appear to float effortlessly through its center – even though the ocean is some 60 miles away.
Must see: Take a walk or cycle through the Warehouse District.
Insider tips: The best way to see Hamburg is by bicycle. The Deutsche Bahn’s comprehensive Call a Bike share scheme is cheap, convenient, and the perfect way to explore the city.
How to get there: Hamburg is easily accessible by train, and the Hauptbahnhof is conveniently located. There are ICE trains from most major German cities and direct services from many neighboring countries, including Denmark, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, and Slovakia.
The Bavarian city of Munich is about more than beer halls and bratwurst. That said, at least as a first-time tourist, the two should feature prominently during your visit. Despite being the third-largest city in Germany, Munich still has a very walkable town center that’s great for people watching.
It’s also home to fascinating architecture, interesting cafés, and high-end art galleries. There’s a distinct fairytale feel to Munich throughout the year that, combined with its Bavarian heritage, makes it a truly memorable city to visit.
Must see: Munich’s Olympiapark offers a fascinating if not slightly creepy look back at the home of the 1972 Olympics. The BMW museum is also located nearby.
Insider tips: Embrace Bavarian culture and head to a local beer hall. Augustiner Bräustuben is less touristy than many others, has a great atmosphere, and offers reasonable prices.
How to get there: Munich is well connected to the rest of Germany by train. You can also easily access Munich by train from other big cities in the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. There are also several night trains from cities further afield. Most trains arrive and depart at Munich Hauptbahnhof.
Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich are among the most-visited cities in Europe. With one of the continent’s most comprehensive rail networks, it makes perfect sense to plan a German rail adventure that taps into all three. Find out about exploring Germany by train on Eurail.com.