Berchtesgadener Land is a lovely district steeped in myths and legends. At its heart is this reserve harbouring some of Germany’s best hiking trails, and the pristine Königssee lake. The area also has darker associations in the form of the Eagle’s Nest, a mountaintop lodge built for Hitler; Eagle’s Nest Historical Tours runs informative visits. For hiking routes in the area, visit the national park office.
Germany’s highest peak (2,962m) exerts its siren call on hikers in summer and skiiers in winter, but year-round it’s possible to summit the mountain via train and cable car. The trip starts in Garmisch on the Zahnradbahn, which chugs along the mountain base to Eibsee – a forest lake. From here, the Eibsee-Seilbahn cable car swings to the top. The Gletscherbahn cable car then takes you to the Zugspitze glacier, from where the cogwheel train heads back to Garmisch.
Germany’s unofficial southern capital is a flourishing success story that revels in its own contradictions. Its walkable centre retains a small-town air but holds some top sights, especially the Kunstareal (art district) – an entire neighbourhood of great museums including the Pinakothek galleries. But be warned: during Oktoberfest it seems the whole world descends on the town.
Bavaria’s second-largest city is an energetic place with intense nightlife and beer as dark as coffee. It has a hulking medieval fortress (the Kaiserburg) and a long artistic heritage: Albrecht Dürer was born here and his house has become a museum. The Nazis later used Nuremberg as a platform for their activities; the former main parade ground is now a documentation centre.
A beautiful architectural masterpiece with an almost complete absence of modern eyesores, Bamberg’s Altstadt (Old Town) is a Unesco World Heritage site. The town is bisected by rivers, canals and medieval streets. There are pavement cafes, pubs and 10 breweries that cook up Bamberg’s famous smoked beer; try Klosterbräu, the city’s oldest brewery.