Germany is Europe’s beating economic heart, an incredibly varied country assembled from a patchwork of distinctive regions and states. The classic image of Germany is of fairytale castles peering out from thick forest, timbered houses leaning rakishly over cobbled streets, and beerhalls filled with ruddy-faced patrons and buxom barmaids. But modern Germany is also a centre for high-tech manufacturing, finance and the creative industries, home to the soaring skyscrapers of Frankfurt and the hipster hangouts of Berlin. It’s a complicated country that’s impossible to pigeonhole, with the Cold War divisions of East and West often still tangible.
The Rhine valley is the highlight of many touring itineraries, a beautifully scenic part of the country where you’ll find picturesque towns like Rüdesheim and Boppard, while the engaging Bavarian capital, Munich, is famous as the home of Oktoberfest. Berlin’s Cold War history is fascinating, though these days it’s the pumping clubs and bars that attract many visitors to the capital. If you’re looking for a more restful escape then why not play Hansel and Gretel in the Black Forest, or take the waters in the spa town of Baden-Baden. Germany is home to some truly stupendous architecture, including Cologne’s imposing cathedral and Heidelberg’s beautiful medieval old town, and also boasts a surprising stretch of coastline where you’ll find ancient Hanseatic port towns and wild Baltic beaches.