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Grand castles, charming half-timbered houses, inspiring medieval monuments… just how did Germany end up with such a rich trove of picture-perfect landscapes? The answer lies in the country's unique history. For most of its existence, Germany was a collection of kingdoms, dukedoms and principalities, each vying to outdo its neighbours. The result? An unrivalled collection of storied scenic spots.
Drink in the wine city
Garden view of the Residenz in Würzburg. Photo: Supplied
No prizes for guessing what the drink of choice is in the historic city of Würzburg, where grapevines clothe the sun-dappled hills surrounding the town. The city is also known for its baroque and rococo architecture; don't miss the Residenz, the World Heritage-listed palace built for the archbishop who once ruled the town. A spectacular staircase crowned with Tiepolo frescoes is the building's most famous feature, but it pays to dig a bit deeper; beneath the Residenz lies a sprawling wine cellar that is home to some of the largest wine barrels in the world.
Stroll through the parks and palaces
View of Potsdam City Palace from St. Nicholas church. Photo: Getty
It lies just a half-hour train ride from Berlin but Potsdam – the former residence of the Prussian kings – couldn't feel more different from its sister city. Potsdam was Prussia's showpiece city, home to sprawling royal estates such as Sanssouci, its parklands studded with ornate palaces as well as fabulous follies including a Chinese house and Roman baths. Explore charming neighbourhoods such as the quaint Dutch Quarter, or relive the Cold War at Glienicke Bridge, also known as the Bridge of Spies, where the West German and East German regimes would swap captured secret agents.
Discover that life is sweet
Gingerbread cookies for sale at the Lübeck Christmas Market. Photo: Getty
Mention the name Lübeck and German mouths start watering. The city is famous as the home of the country's marzipan industry, a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages. While a stop in one of Lübeck's marzipan makers is a must, there is plenty more to discover in this enchanting town, not least its magnificently-preserved medieval architecture. It is not just the splendid churches and the splendid town hall that impress; a wander through the winding lanes reveals one scenic vista after another.
Get romantic on the Rhine
The town of Oberwesel along the river Rhine. Photo: Getty
The Rhine is famously home to some of Europe's most romantic landscapes, and the quiet curve of the river watched over by the Schönburg Castle has to be near the top of the list. The castle itself, its towers jutting up from a high crag overlooking the river, would do any Hollywood set designer proud; completing the picture is the nearby town of Oberwesel, its mighty medieval walls studded with no fewer than 16 watchtowers. If you are ready to stretch your legs, an easy hike connects the castle with the town.
Let down your hair
Its charming collection of half-timbered houses would be reason enough to visit the town of Trendelburg, but this pretty town on the Diemar river has some other highlights up its sleeve. The ornate town hall and the Gothic church with its medieval tombs and frescoes are both splendid, but the big-ticket item here is the town's proud castle, crowned with a soaring tower that is said to have inspired the tale of Rapunzel.
Walk the walls
The medieval architecture of Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber Photo: Jenny Meagher
The walled town of Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber has won the hearts of countless tourists from around the world. Walk the ramparts for glorious views of the countryside before you take a stroll through the scenic streets. Art lovers will want to visit St Jakob's Church with its glorious altarpiece by Tilman Riemenschneider, Germany's greatest medieval artist. For those with a strong stomach, a visit to the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum gives a no-holds-barred glimpse into medieval life, while souvenir hunters can buy up big on hand-carved Christmas ornaments.
Sink a stein in Munich
Enjoy one of several beer gardens in Munich. Photo: Getty
It may be the third-largest city in Germany, but Munich's warm and welcoming attitude gives it a definite small-town feel. There are plenty of attractions to explore, from museums to palaces to the city's distinctive onion-domed churches, but for a true Munich experience, take a walk through the lovely Marienplatz square before joining the locals in one of the city's many inviting beer gardens to down a stein or two of one of the local brews.
Collette's 11-day 'Germany's Cultural Cities and Romantic Road' tour for 2020-21 is on sale until 30 September.
Choose from many departures between March and November. Collette have over 100 years of touring experience and each is packed with inclusions, led by an expert tour leader and features 4-star hotels in optimum locations.