Germany's most beautiful towns and villages



Slide 1 of 41: There's far more to Germany than just hip and culture-packed big cities. From sleepy seaside resorts to quaint mountain villages and pretty wine-growing towns, much of the country's allure lies in its lesser-known spots. Here are 40 charmers that should be firmly on your travel wish list.
Slide 2 of 41: Sat on Germany's Baltic Sea coastline, Wismar is a weekender's delight. With its colorful and characterful buildings (evidence of Swedish rule during the 16th and 17th century), Gothic architecture and old harbor, the once powerful trading port is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wismar’s picture-perfect looks have long lured filmmakers too: its harbor famously featured in the 1922 Dracula movie Nosferatu.
Slide 3 of 41: Steeped in tales of miners, witches and emperors, Goslar in the Harz mountains is a bewitching place. The beautiful UNESCO World Heritage town was founded after silver was discovered in the mountains in AD 968. You can go into Europe’s oldest subterranean mine chamber, the 13th-century Feuergezähe, at the Rammelsberg Mining Museum. The sprawling Imperial Palace of Goslar and the medieval old town's pretty marketplace are other highlights. Along with other Harz towns, Goslar celebrates all things witchcraft on Walpurgis Night each spring.
Slide 4 of 41: Time seems to have stood still for more than three centuries in this small riverside town in the lovely Eifel region. It’s easy to see why Monschau is dubbed the "Pearl of the Eifel" with its romantic cobblestoned lanes and traditional half-timbered houses which line the Ruhr river. Learn how the town's famous mustard is made (and taste it) at the historic Mustard Mill, while a pedal through the old town and out along the riverbanks makes for a delightful day out.

Slide 5 of 41: Sitting on the Polish border, Görlitz is Germany's easternmost town. Connected to sister town Zgorzelec by two bridges over the Neisse river, it's awash with historic pastel-colored buildings and ancient churches, such as St Peter and Paul (pictured). The pretty town survived the Second World War intact and remains well preserved. It's no surprise then that Görlitz has been the backdrop for several movies set during or before the war, such as Valkyrie and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  
Slide 6 of 41: Set on the river Diemel, little Trendelburg enchants with its old-world charm but it's the fairy-tale tower in the town's 13th-century castle, thought to have inspired the tale of Rapunzel, that usually lures most visitors. A popular stop on Germany's Fairy Tale Route, which runs from Hanau in central Germany to Bremen in the north, the long-haired princess makes regular appearances in the window of the tower, which is now a hotel. There are also canoe trips along the river and its network of forest trails are perfect to pedal around. 
Slide 7 of 41: The Moselle Valley is well known for its wines but it’s been keeping its quaint little villages quiet. Surrounded by stunning scenery and home to less than 1,000 people, Bremm is a beauty of a place. Its whitewashed houses and slate-roofed churches sit snug at the foot of Europe’s steepest vineyard, the Calmont. A hike up the mountain trails offers mesmerizing views over the town, as vines and the Moselle River bend beneath.
Slide 8 of 41: On the western end of the Tauber Valley's rolling landscape of vineyards and forests, tiny Tauberbischofsheim is a charming base for exploring this scenic part of southern Germany. Translating as "home of the bishop of Tauber", the Rapunzel-esque tower of its archbishop's palace is a highlight. Some remains of its old town walls can be seen, along with a clutch of half-timbered buildings and a bustling marketplace – a prime spot for a beer after cycling around the valley's vineyard trails.
Slide 9 of 41: The history of this genteel cathedral town dates back almost a thousand years. Naumburg is a quaint and quiet place with buildings from the Renaissance and Baroque eras and plenty of pretty little lanes to potter around. Classical music fans will love the Church of St Wenceslas to ogle at and listen to the extraordinarily beautiful Hildebrandt organ being played. It's the largest of its kind in the world.

Slide 10 of 41: At 1,050-years-old Lüneburg is one of the oldest and best-looking towns in northern Germany. Located between the Elbe river and the colorful heathland of Lower Saxony, the Hanseatic trade town – famous for its salt production – has an abundance of medieval treasures, not to mention gabled red-brick houses and pretty old churches. But as a university town too, Lüneburg is lively with plenty of places to enjoy food and drinks. The Stint market at the old harbor (pictured) is a lovely spot to try the local beer. 
Slide 11 of 41: Built in the middle of the Regnitz river between two arched bridges, Bamberg’s 14th-century town hall is just one of many reasons why this German gem is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like Italy's capital, Bamberg was built over seven hills, earning it the title of 'Franconian Rome'. Stroll down the hilly city’s cobbled lanes, lined with half-timbered façades, and stop for a mass (a liter of beer) in one of the many breweries. After all, you are in Bavaria. The old fishermen's district in Bamberg's Island City – known as Little Venice – is also worth a wander.
Slide 12 of 41: Chug along the canals of Friedrichstadt in Schleswig-Holstein and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Netherlands next door. With its Dutch-style red-brick houses, stone arch bridges and canals, Friedrichstadt is unsurprisingly known as Little Amsterdam. The town was founded by Dutch settlers in 1621 – discover its history at the museum Alte Münze, which has fascinating exhibitions, and is a beautiful example of Dutch Renaissance architecture. True to form, cycling is also big here – tackle part of the Viking Friesian Cycle Path that stretches across Schleswig-Holstein from coast to coast.
Slide 13 of 41: Just west of capital Berlin, riverside Brandenburg an der Havel has gorgeous Gothic architecture and historic sights in abundance. Remains of its medieval fortifications dot the center and its impressive town hall dates back to the 15th century. The grand Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is considered the "mother" of all churches in the state of Brandenburg. Situated prettily on an island in the Havel River, it’s the heart of the handsome town.
Slide 14 of 41: The small university town of Marburg is a labyrinth of higgledy streets with its well-preserved half-timbered houses rising up the hill on the west bank of the river Lahn. Its Elisabethkirche is Germany's oldest pure Gothic cathedral. Perched on the highest point, the imposing 13th-century castle Landgrafenschloss looms over the pretty town. A hike up to the Spiegelslustturm offers more wonderful views, while a pedal boat trip is a chance to soak up the river scenery.

Slide 15 of 41: Tucked away in the small state of Saarland near the borders with France and Luxembourg, Mettlach sits in the bend of the river Saar. The town's history is intertwined with ceramics firm Villeroy & Boch, whose headquarters are located in the Alte Abtei, a former Benedictine abbey on the riverfront. Nature lovers and hikers usually head up to the nearby Cloef lookout for the best views in town.
Slide 16 of 41: On the edge of the Thuringian Forest, the Wartburg (pictured) is an awe-inspiring castle first founded in 1067. It sits on a high bluff and overlooks the lovely town of Eisenach. Once the hiding place for protestant priest Martin Luther, who translated the Bible into German, today the fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Eisenach is a cultural hot spot and popular with classical music lovers, as the birth town of Johann Sebastian Bach – the Bachhaus Eisenach museum usually attracts plenty.
Slide 17 of 41: The green meadows and snow-covered peaks of the Bavarian Alps are speckled with chocolate-box villages. One of the sweetest of them all is Oberammergau with its cobbled lanes, pretty painted houses, artisan craft shops and onion-domed church. Once a decade, villagers here perform the Passion Play, a religious tradition that dates to the 17th century when the plague ravaged the town – sadly the play was postponed in May 2020 due to the current pandemic.
Slide 18 of 41: Located at the northern edge of the Harz mountains, Wernigerode is a wonderful place for a break with its cobbled streets and half-timbered houses. Among its most notable buildings is the unique Gothic town hall, which has a timber façade from 1498 and twin turrets (pictured), and the fairy-tale-like 12th-century castle that looms high above the old town. Winter is usually a magical time to visit Wernigerode when snow dusts its rooftops and Christmas decorations twinkle.
Slide 19 of 41: Famed for the bright blue waters of 'Blautopf', Blaubeuren has attracted visitors for centuries and its spring has inspired many myths and fairy tales. The town has lashings of medieval charm with sights including a Benedictine monastery. Its history runs far deeper, however, with nearby caves, such as Hohle Fels, the sight of many important archaeological finds dating to the Upper Paleolithic period. The town's Museum of Prehistory will unearth plenty.
Slide 20 of 41: Step straight into the stories of the Brothers Grimm in the old town of Alsfeld. With its ancient half-timbered houses and striking twin-turreted town hall, it has lashings of fairy-tale charm. When it's running, a Grimm-themed tour allows visitors to discover the brothers’ tales inside the Fairy Tale House, a half-timbered building dating from 1628. Little Red Riding Hood is thought to have been inspired by the Schwalm region's local traditional costume of a red cap. 
Slide 21 of 41: Another of northern Germany’s medieval gems, Celle’s history dates back 700 years. Once the home of European nobility, it is rich in historic buildings including having one of Europe's largest collections of listed half-timbered houses (Hoppener Haus is especially beautiful) with just under 500 and a charming castle that dates from 1292. Notable features include its 16th-century chapel with a Renaissance interior and 17th-century theater, the oldest existing example of a Baroque theater ​in Germany. Celle sits scenically on the banks of the Aller river and is well located for hikes into Lower Saxony’s bucolic heathlands.
Slide 22 of 41: The 600-strong hamlet of Ahrenshoop is beautifully located on a peninsula between the Baltic Sea and the bodden (wetlands). Its harbor has traditional fishing huts and elsewhere thatched fishermen's houses sit back from the sand dunes. As well as a scenic setting, the village has plenty of culture to offer. Unsurprisingly it’s attracted many artists over the years with its light and landscapes – its painting school was founded in 1894 and features an art museum.
Slide 23 of 41: A picture-perfect town located between vineyards and orchards and overlooking vast Lake Constance, tiny Meersburg in Baden-Württemberg has much to offer. Visitors and locals alike usually soak in the views across the pretty lake to the Swiss Alps from medieval Meersburg Castle (pictured) in the historic Oberstadt (Upper Town) and enjoy a walk along the seafront promenade in its bustling Unterstadt (Lower Town).
Slide 24 of 41: Built along narrow green-banked canals, little Lehde is one of the oldest and most charming villages of Brandenburg's Spreewald area. It's best discovered by boat – specifically on one of the region's traditional Spreewald boats. Some hire a kayak to make their own way along the wooden farmhouse-lined waterways, stopping to buy some of the area's famed pickles from farm shops. Glimpse what life was like in this rural community during the 19th century at the village’s captivating open-air museum (open with reduced hours). 
Slide 25 of 41: With only one main road, rarely any traffic and just a few picture-perfect thatched cottages, Sieseby has rural charm by the spadeful. One of several historic hamlets and villages in Schleswig-Holstein’s sleepy Schwansen Peninsula, it is set on the Schlei, an inlet from the Baltic Sea. It’s a lovely part of the country to explore on foot or by boat or bike.
Slide 26 of 41: Another of Saxony’s well-preserved old towns, Zittau lies in the state’s far southeastern corner. It was once a flourishing trading town, thanks to its location on the crossroads of trade routes between Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. It's most famous for its rare medieval Lenten veils, on display in the Museum Kirche zum Heiligen Kreuz. Nearby is the Zittau Mountains Nature Park boasting pretty peaks, rivers and meadows.
Slide 27 of 41: Dominated by majestic hill castle Burg Altena and edging along the Lenne river, this town in North Rhine-Westphalia is spellbinding. Its history is fascinating too: the town once filled its coffers by making the wire used for chainmail-shirts for medieval knights. Now, the area celebrates its heritage with a Middle Ages Festival each August (although this year's was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic). 
Slide 28 of 41: Lapped by the turquoise waters of Lake Constance with views of the snow-capped Alps, Lindau is one good-looking town. Its old quarter sits on an island and has an almost Mediterranean feel with its waterside setting, winding alleys and charming squares. Ferries from the mainland take passengers to the charming old center through its striking harbor entrance, which is set between a lion statue and Bavaria's only lighthouse.
Slide 29 of 41: Bobbing on the harbor waters of the pretty port of Neuharlingersiel are brightly colored boats, known as cutters – one of many charming sights in this fishing town in Lower Saxony. From here you can hop on a ferry to the nearby East Frisian Islands, a chain of isles in the UNESCO-listed Wadden Sea and a popular vacation destination with their sandy shores and rich traditions. These are the UK's prettiest small towns and villages.
Slide 30 of 41: With vineyards, pastures and gentle mountains, peppered with medieval villages and castles, the Rhine region astounds at every stretch. St Goarshausen in the Upper-Middle Rhine Valley is one of the prettiest, boasting no less than two castles, Burg Maus and Burg Katz (pictured). The ancient fortifications and a striking steep slate rock, known as Lorelei or Loreley, forms the backdrop for the annual fireworks event 'Rhein in Flammen' (Rhine in flames) in September, that lights up the village and its neighbor across the water, St Goar.
Slide 31 of 41: Less than two hours from Berlin, the pretty town of Rheinsberg lies in Brandenburg’s Ruppiner Seenland – characterized by its lakes and waterways. With a history that dates back to the 14th century, the town's chief attraction is its grand palace which sits on Lake Grienerick surrounded by landscaped parklands. It was home to Frederick the Great as a young crown prince between 1736 and 1740. The historic center is a lovely place to wander too with its cobblestones and cafés.
Slide 32 of 41: Dominated by a palace and abbey complex perched high on a sandstone bluff, Quedlinburg in the Hartz mountains is a treasure trove of medieval riches. As capital of the East Franconian German Empire from 919 to 1024 and a prosperous trading town, it’s now UNESCO-listed and has more than 1,300 timber-framed buildings lining the sloped streets of its old town and Münzenberg hill. It has exquisite Romanesque churches and monastic buildings too, along with a beautifully preserved Marktplatz and stunning Gothic town hall. 
Slide 33 of 41: With three castles, a medieval center and scenic surrounds, Hattingen is one of the Ruhr region's highlights. Stroll down the snaking cobbled lanes of the former Hanseatic town and admire its well-preserved half-timbered houses. Learn about the town’s past inside the historic Bügeleisenhaus. The quaint buildings of the old town make a beautiful backdrop for Hattingen’s annual festive fair too.
Slide 34 of 41: Surrounded by the thick tangle of Thuringia forest, the little spa town of Bad Blankenburg woos visitors with its grand feudal castle Greifenstein, home to the Counts of Schwarzburg-Blankenburg in the 13th and 14th century. The town, also known as Lavender City in reference to a former lavender farm in the area, is famous for being the birthplace of kindergarten. That's right, education pioneer Friedrich Froebel opened the very first kindergarten here in 1840 and now his namesake museum is housed in the very same spot. 
Slide 35 of 41: The stilt houses of St Peter-Ording are a unique sight along the wind-buffed North Sea coastline. The towering wooden structures were built along the wide sands of this scenic seaside resort more than 100 years ago for beachgoers. Today they still replenish visitors with their cafés and soaring views. Set within the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park, St Peter-Ording is still a popular health resort and home to many wellness centers. It’s also revered by kite-surfers and surfers. 
Slide 36 of 41: Translating as "red fortress above the Tauber river", the ancient red-roofed village of Rothenburg ob der Tauber leaves a lasting impression. Set along southern Germany’s Romantic Road, it is one of many medieval storybook settlements with its defensive towers, narrow timber-clad houses and cobbled streets. There is lots to entertain in this picturesque place with its many museums, gardens, enticing shops and buzzy cafés. Now discover Europe's most adorable small towns and villages.
Slide 37 of 41: Once home to the writer Goethe and the poet and playwright Schiller, Weimar is a beacon of Germany's high culture and a fascinating place to visit. As well as numerous museums, there are tranquil parks and lush gardens for quiet contemplation. You can usually take in a play at the National Theater (Deutsches Nationaltheater, pictured here with its landmark Goethe-Schiller monument) while a culinary walk around Weimar's handsome streets reveals the best places to tuck into Thuringia's traditional cuisine and wines.
Slide 38 of 41: A pretty seaside resort on Germany's northeastern island of Rügen, Binz has sandy beaches, fancy hotels and coastal walks – most famously to its white chalk cliffs. Its pine-backed beaches are lined with ornate white villas that date from the 19th century when it became a popular place to bathe. You can't miss the resort's traditional canopied chairs, made from wicker and canvas and known as strandkörbe (beach baskets), that stretch all along the waterfront. 
Slide 39 of 41: Take a tumble back in time to tiny Schiltach, a medieval gem in the Upper Kinzig Valley in the Black Forest. The pretty town’s history dates back to the 11th century – something you soon sense on a stroll down its river promenade, which is lined with quaint half-timbered houses, or when you explore its market square. While the town's intriguing museums – the pharmacy museum and craft tannery, the last in the Black Forest – showcase the area’s rich traditions and crafts.
Slide 40 of 41: Crouched on the left bank of the Moselle Valley, waterside Cochem can't fail to charm with its pastel-hued houses, medieval gateways and the fairy-tale form of Reichsburg Castle, which presides over the town on a craggy rock. Visitors usually meander around its atmospheric old town and taste the local wines, before heading for the hills. The hiking trails in this wine-growing region are out of this world. Check out these secrets of the world's most incredible castles.
Slide 41 of 41: Overlooked by hilltop Stahleck Castle, the beautiful riverside hamlet is a popular stop for river cruisers. It’s a spectacular spot to drink in the views over the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and linger in lush vineyards of the bucolic wine-growing region. And of course, you have to sample the local riesling too. A stroll through the medieval gateway allows visitors to discover the charming village, as well as its 14th-century ramparts, while the higgledy-piggledy houses that center around the Postenturm (pictured) are begging to be admired. Now take a look at 50 of the world's most beautiful towns

German gems

Wismar, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Sat on Germany’s Baltic Sea coastline, Wismar is a weekender’s delight. With its colorful and characterful buildings (evidence of Swedish rule during the 16th and 17th century), Gothic architecture and old harbor, the once powerful trading port is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wismar’s picture-perfect looks have long lured filmmakers too: its harbor famously featured in the 1922 Dracula movie Nosferatu.

Goslar, Lower Saxony

Steeped in tales of miners, witches and emperors, Goslar in the Harz mountains is a bewitching place. The beautiful UNESCO World Heritage town was founded after silver was discovered in the mountains in AD 968. You can go into Europe’s oldest subterranean mine chamber, the 13th-century Feuergezähe, at the Rammelsberg Mining Museum. The sprawling Imperial Palace of Goslar and the medieval old town’s pretty marketplace are other highlights. Along with other Harz towns, Goslar celebrates all things witchcraft on Walpurgis Night each spring.

Monschau, North Rhine-Westphalia

Time seems to have stood still for more than three centuries in this small riverside town in the lovely Eifel region. It’s easy to see why Monschau is dubbed the “Pearl of the Eifel” with its romantic cobblestoned lanes and traditional half-timbered houses which line the Ruhr river. Learn how the town’s famous mustard is made (and taste it) at the historic Mustard Mill, while a pedal through the old town and out along the riverbanks makes for a delightful day out.

Görlitz, Saxony

Sitting on the Polish border, Görlitz is Germany’s easternmost town. Connected to sister town Zgorzelec by two bridges over the Neisse river, it’s awash with historic pastel-colored buildings and ancient churches, such as St Peter and Paul (pictured). The pretty town survived the Second World War intact and remains well preserved. It’s no surprise then that Görlitz has been the backdrop for several movies set during or before the war, such as Valkyrie and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  

Trendelburg, Hesse

Set on the river Diemel, little Trendelburg enchants with its old-world charm but it’s the fairy-tale tower in the town’s 13th-century castle, thought to have inspired the tale of Rapunzel, that usually lures most visitors. A popular stop on Germany’s Fairy Tale Route, which runs from Hanau in central Germany to Bremen in the north, the long-haired princess makes regular appearances in the window of the tower, which is now a hotel. There are also canoe trips along the river and its network of forest trails are perfect to pedal around. 

Bremm, Rhineland-Palatinate

The Moselle Valley is well known for its wines but it’s been keeping its quaint little villages quiet. Surrounded by stunning scenery and home to less than 1,000 people, Bremm is a beauty of a place. Its whitewashed houses and slate-roofed churches sit snug at the foot of Europe’s steepest vineyard, the Calmont. A hike up the mountain trails offers mesmerizing views over the town, as vines and the Moselle River bend beneath.

Tauberbischofsheim, Baden-Württemberg

Naumburg, Saxony-Anhalt

Lüneburg, Lower Saxony

At 1,050-years-old Lüneburg is one of the oldest and best-looking towns in northern Germany. Located between the Elbe river and the colorful heathland of Lower Saxony, the Hanseatic trade town – famous for its salt production – has an abundance of medieval treasures, not to mention gabled red-brick houses and pretty old churches. But as a university town too, Lüneburg is lively with plenty of places to enjoy food and drinks. The Stint market at the old harbor (pictured) is a lovely spot to try the local beer. 

Bamberg, Bavaria

Built in the middle of the Regnitz river between two arched bridges, Bamberg’s 14th-century town hall is just one of many reasons why this German gem is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like Italy’s capital, Bamberg was built over seven hills, earning it the title of ‘Franconian Rome’. Stroll down the hilly city’s cobbled lanes, lined with half-timbered façades, and stop for a mass (a liter of beer) in one of the many breweries. After all, you are in Bavaria. The old fishermen’s district in Bamberg’s Island City – known as Little Venice – is also worth a wander.

Friedrichstadt, Schleswig-Holstein

Chug along the canals of Friedrichstadt in Schleswig-Holstein and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Netherlands next door. With its Dutch-style red-brick houses, stone arch bridges and canals, Friedrichstadt is unsurprisingly known as Little Amsterdam. The town was founded by Dutch settlers in 1621 – discover its history at the museum Alte Münze, which has fascinating exhibitions, and is a beautiful example of Dutch Renaissance architecture. True to form, cycling is also big here – tackle part of the Viking Friesian Cycle Path that stretches across Schleswig-Holstein from coast to coast.

Brandenburg an der Havel, Brandenburg

Marburg, Hesse

The small university town of Marburg is a labyrinth of higgledy streets with its well-preserved half-timbered houses rising up the hill on the west bank of the river Lahn. Its Elisabethkirche is Germany’s oldest pure Gothic cathedral. Perched on the highest point, the imposing 13th-century castle Landgrafenschloss looms over the pretty town. A hike up to the Spiegelslustturm offers more wonderful views, while a pedal boat trip is a chance to soak up the river scenery.

Mettlach, Saarland

Eisenach, Thuringia

On the edge of the Thuringian Forest, the Wartburg (pictured) is an awe-inspiring castle first founded in 1067. It sits on a high bluff and overlooks the lovely town of Eisenach. Once the hiding place for protestant priest Martin Luther, who translated the Bible into German, today the fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Eisenach is a cultural hot spot and popular with classical music lovers, as the birth town of Johann Sebastian Bach – the Bachhaus Eisenach museum usually attracts plenty.

Oberammergau, Bavaria

Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt

Located at the northern edge of the Harz mountains, Wernigerode is a wonderful place for a break with its cobbled streets and half-timbered houses. Among its most notable buildings is the unique Gothic town hall, which has a timber façade from 1498 and twin turrets (pictured), and the fairy-tale-like 12th-century castle that looms high above the old town. Winter is usually a magical time to visit Wernigerode when snow dusts its rooftops and Christmas decorations twinkle.

Blaubeuren, Baden-Württemberg

Famed for the bright blue waters of ‘Blautopf’, Blaubeuren has attracted visitors for centuries and its spring has inspired many myths and fairy tales. The town has lashings of medieval charm with sights including a Benedictine monastery. Its history runs far deeper, however, with nearby caves, such as Hohle Fels, the sight of many important archaeological finds dating to the Upper Paleolithic period. The town’s Museum of Prehistory will unearth plenty.

Alsfeld, Hesse

Step straight into the stories of the Brothers Grimm in the old town of Alsfeld. With its ancient half-timbered houses and striking twin-turreted town hall, it has lashings of fairy-tale charm. When it’s running, a Grimm-themed tour allows visitors to discover the brothers’ tales inside the Fairy Tale House, a half-timbered building dating from 1628. Little Red Riding Hood is thought to have been inspired by the Schwalm region’s local traditional costume of a red cap. 

Celle, Lower Saxony

Another of northern Germany’s medieval gems, Celle’s history dates back 700 years. Once the home of European nobility, it is rich in historic buildings including having one of Europe’s largest collections of listed half-timbered houses (Hoppener Haus is especially beautiful) with just under 500 and a charming castle that dates from 1292. Notable features include its 16th-century chapel with a Renaissance interior and 17th-century theater, the oldest existing example of a Baroque theater ​in Germany. Celle sits scenically on the banks of the Aller river and is well located for hikes into Lower Saxony’s bucolic heathlands.

Ahrenshoop, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Meersburg, Baden-Württemberg

A picture-perfect town located between vineyards and orchards and overlooking vast Lake Constance, tiny Meersburg in Baden-Württemberg has much to offer. Visitors and locals alike usually soak in the views across the pretty lake to the Swiss Alps from medieval Meersburg Castle (pictured) in the historic Oberstadt (Upper Town) and enjoy a walk along the seafront promenade in its bustling Unterstadt (Lower Town).

Lehde, Brandenburg

Built along narrow green-banked canals, little Lehde is one of the oldest and most charming villages of Brandenburg’s Spreewald area. It’s best discovered by boat – specifically on one of the region’s traditional Spreewald boats. Some hire a kayak to make their own way along the wooden farmhouse-lined waterways, stopping to buy some of the area’s famed pickles from farm shops. Glimpse what life was like in this rural community during the 19th century at the village’s captivating open-air museum (open with reduced hours). 

Sieseby, Schleswig-Holstein

Zittau, Saxony

Another of Saxony’s well-preserved old towns, Zittau lies in the state’s far southeastern corner. It was once a flourishing trading town, thanks to its location on the crossroads of trade routes between Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. It’s most famous for its rare medieval Lenten veils, on display in the Museum Kirche zum Heiligen Kreuz. Nearby is the Zittau Mountains Nature Park boasting pretty peaks, rivers and meadows.

Altena, North Rhine-Westphalia

Dominated by majestic hill castle Burg Altena and edging along the Lenne river, this town in North Rhine-Westphalia is spellbinding. Its history is fascinating too: the town once filled its coffers by making the wire used for chainmail-shirts for medieval knights. Now, the area celebrates its heritage with a Middle Ages Festival each August (although this year’s was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic). 

Lindau, Bavaria

Lapped by the turquoise waters of Lake Constance with views of the snow-capped Alps, Lindau is one good-looking town. Its old quarter sits on an island and has an almost Mediterranean feel with its waterside setting, winding alleys and charming squares. Ferries from the mainland take passengers to the charming old center through its striking harbor entrance, which is set between a lion statue and Bavaria’s only lighthouse.

Neuharlingersiel, Lower Saxony

Bobbing on the harbor waters of the pretty port of Neuharlingersiel are brightly colored boats, known as cutters – one of many charming sights in this fishing town in Lower Saxony. From here you can hop on a ferry to the nearby East Frisian Islands, a chain of isles in the UNESCO-listed Wadden Sea and a popular vacation destination with their sandy shores and rich traditions. These are the UK’s prettiest small towns and villages.

St Goarshausen, Rhineland-Palatinate

With vineyards, pastures and gentle mountains, peppered with medieval villages and castles, the Rhine region astounds at every stretch. St Goarshausen in the Upper-Middle Rhine Valley is one of the prettiest, boasting no less than two castles, Burg Maus and Burg Katz (pictured). The ancient fortifications and a striking steep slate rock, known as Lorelei or Loreley, forms the backdrop for the annual fireworks event ‘Rhein in Flammen’ (Rhine in flames) in September, that lights up the village and its neighbor across the water, St Goar.

Rheinsberg, Brandenburg

Less than two hours from Berlin, the pretty town of Rheinsberg lies in Brandenburg’s Ruppiner Seenland – characterized by its lakes and waterways. With a history that dates back to the 14th century, the town’s chief attraction is its grand palace which sits on Lake Grienerick surrounded by landscaped parklands. It was home to Frederick the Great as a young crown prince between 1736 and 1740. The historic center is a lovely place to wander too with its cobblestones and cafés.

Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt

Dominated by a palace and abbey complex perched high on a sandstone bluff, Quedlinburg in the Hartz mountains is a treasure trove of medieval riches. As capital of the East Franconian German Empire from 919 to 1024 and a prosperous trading town, it’s now UNESCO-listed and has more than 1,300 timber-framed buildings lining the sloped streets of its old town and Münzenberg hill. It has exquisite Romanesque churches and monastic buildings too, along with a beautifully preserved Marktplatz and stunning Gothic town hall. 

Hattingen, North Rhine-Westphalia

With three castles, a medieval center and scenic surrounds, Hattingen is one of the Ruhr region’s highlights. Stroll down the snaking cobbled lanes of the former Hanseatic town and admire its well-preserved half-timbered houses. Learn about the town’s past inside the historic Bügeleisenhaus. The quaint buildings of the old town make a beautiful backdrop for Hattingen’s annual festive fair too.

Bad Blankenburg, Thuringia

Surrounded by the thick tangle of Thuringia forest, the little spa town of Bad Blankenburg woos visitors with its grand feudal castle Greifenstein, home to the Counts of Schwarzburg-Blankenburg in the 13th and 14th century. The town, also known as Lavender City in reference to a former lavender farm in the area, is famous for being the birthplace of kindergarten. That’s right, education pioneer Friedrich Froebel opened the very first kindergarten here in 1840 and now his namesake museum is housed in the very same spot. 

St Peter-Ording, Schleswig-Holstein

The stilt houses of St Peter-Ording are a unique sight along the wind-buffed North Sea coastline. The towering wooden structures were built along the wide sands of this scenic seaside resort more than 100 years ago for beachgoers. Today they still replenish visitors with their cafés and soaring views. Set within the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park, St Peter-Ording is still a popular health resort and home to many wellness centers. It’s also revered by kite-surfers and surfers. 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria

Translating as “red fortress above the Tauber river”, the ancient red-roofed village of Rothenburg ob der Tauber leaves a lasting impression. Set along southern Germany’s Romantic Road, it is one of many medieval storybook settlements with its defensive towers, narrow timber-clad houses and cobbled streets. There is lots to entertain in this picturesque place with its many museums, gardens, enticing shops and buzzy cafés. Now discover Europe’s most adorable small towns and villages.

Weimar, Thuringia

Once home to the writer Goethe and the poet and playwright Schiller, Weimar is a beacon of Germany’s high culture and a fascinating place to visit. As well as numerous museums, there are tranquil parks and lush gardens for quiet contemplation. You can usually take in a play at the National Theater (Deutsches Nationaltheater, pictured here with its landmark Goethe-Schiller monument) while a culinary walk around Weimar’s handsome streets reveals the best places to tuck into Thuringia’s traditional cuisine and wines.

Binz, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

A pretty seaside resort on Germany’s northeastern island of Rügen, Binz has sandy beaches, fancy hotels and coastal walks – most famously to its white chalk cliffs. Its pine-backed beaches are lined with ornate white villas that date from the 19th century when it became a popular place to bathe. You can’t miss the resort’s traditional canopied chairs, made from wicker and canvas and known as strandkörbe (beach baskets), that stretch all along the waterfront. 

Schiltach, Baden-Württemberg

Take a tumble back in time to tiny Schiltach, a medieval gem in the Upper Kinzig Valley in the Black Forest. The pretty town’s history dates back to the 11th century – something you soon sense on a stroll down its river promenade, which is lined with quaint half-timbered houses, or when you explore its market square. While the town’s intriguing museums – the pharmacy museum and craft tannery, the last in the Black Forest – showcase the area’s rich traditions and crafts.

Cochem, Rhineland-Palatinate

Crouched on the left bank of the Moselle Valley, waterside Cochem can’t fail to charm with its pastel-hued houses, medieval gateways and the fairy-tale form of Reichsburg Castle, which presides over the town on a craggy rock. Visitors usually meander around its atmospheric old town and taste the local wines, before heading for the hills. The hiking trails in this wine-growing region are out of this world. Check out these secrets of the world’s most incredible castles.

Bacharach, Rhineland-Palatinate

Overlooked by hilltop Stahleck Castle, the beautiful riverside hamlet is a popular stop for river cruisers. It’s a spectacular spot to drink in the views over the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and linger in lush vineyards of the bucolic wine-growing region. And of course, you have to sample the local riesling too. A stroll through the medieval gateway allows visitors to discover the charming village, as well as its 14th-century ramparts, while the higgledy-piggledy houses that center around the Postenturm (pictured) are begging to be admired.

Now take a look at 50 of the world’s most beautiful towns

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