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Germany Travel Ideas:

Trips across the border

Quite a few Germany visitors, having once completed the exhausting longhaul trip, take the opportunity to visit not only one, but several European countries. In fact, Germany as a country right in the heart of Europe, offers great possibilities to do just that. Many overseas travelers will be surprised to find out how easy it actually is to cross into another country and back.

One reason for that is the so-called Schengen agreement. This multilateral treaty came into existence in 1995 and has since been expanded multiple times. It basically means that there are no longer any border checkpoints between member states - in fact, in most cases you will not even notice that you have just crossed into another country. There might be exemptions to this rule from time to time, such as actual document checks reinstated temporarily, but mostly it means that once a foreign traveler has been admitted into a Schengen area country, he is free to go to all other countries. Foreign visitors should carry their ID documents with them at all times nevertheless. Be aware that the Schengen area is not the same as the European Union area; there are EU countries that do not participate in Schengen and there are Schengen countries that are not EU members.

Schengen area countries

Austria

Belgium

Czech Republic

Denmark

Estonia

Finland

France

Germany

Greece

Hungary

Iceland

Italy

Latvia

Liechtenstein

Lithuania

Luxembourg

Malta

Netherlands

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Slovakia

Slovenia

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

 

 

Another important factor in planning a trip to more than one European country is the fact that most countries maintain excellent traffic connections among themselves. Road and train connections between countries are plentyful and seamless and there are usually airports with international flights within a short radius from each other.

The following overview lists a few examples of attractions in neighboring countries that can easily be reached from Germany.

 

Denmarkcph
Germany’s direct northern neighbor begins just 160 kilometers north of Hamburg and for the most part grants easy access to coastlines and beaches both at the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, which are also popular with German vacationers. Denmark has its own Wadden Sea National Park not far from the border. From Flensburg, it takes about two hours to go to Odense, a mid-sized city with a Hans Christian Andersen Museum and a historic palace. In a little more than three hours, one can get to Copenhagen, the Danish capital with a population of about 2 million in the metropolitan area. Here, main attractions include the historic waterfront district Nyhavn (photo), the Tivoli Gardens amusement park, the famous Little Mermaid Statue and the royal palace residence of Amalienborg. Founded by Vikings in the 10th century, modern-day Copenhagen is a major hub for finance and economy in Northern Europe and has repeatedly been ranked highly for its quality of life. As an added bonus, it takes just a short trip over the Oresund bridge to get to Sweden. 


PolandSzczecin
Among the former Eastern Bloc members, Poland is one of the countries that have undergone the most remarkable transformations. Germans living in the border region still cross into Poland regularly to obtain goods and services that are comparatively cheaper here, but beyond that, Poland has also become an interesting travel destination. The German cities of Frankfurt / Oder, Görlitz and Eisenhüttenstadt sit right along the border. Opposite Frankfurt for example, only separated by the Oder River, lies the Polish city of Slubice with a population of some 18,000. Departing from Berlin, one will need about 5,5 hours to go to Poland’s capital Warsaw, but other interesting places are even closer. Szczecin (“Stettin” in German) for example, is less than two hours by car from Berlin. Szczecin has been founded in the 8th century and is a major seaport town with more than 400,000 inhabitants. Among the sights of the city are the Ducal Castle, built for the dukes of Pomerania in the 14th century and the reconstructed buildings in the Old Town. 


Czech RepublicPRG
The German federal states of Bavaria and Saxony both share long borders with the Czech Republic and there is a lot of traffic crossing into the respective other country each day. From Bayreuth in Bavaria or from Zwickau in Saxony, it takes less than two hours to get to Karlovy Vary (also called Carlsbad), an ancient spa town widely famous for more than 300 springs. Another one-hour drive from there will bring you to Plzen (or “Pilsen”), home of the Pilsner beer and the fourth-largest city in the Czech Republic with more than 170,000 people. Also not too far away is Prague, the country’s capital and arguably one of the prettiest central European cities, currently home to some 1.2 million people. There are countless attractions here, including the old town with its picturesque central square, the Castle above town - seat of the Czech President - and the historic Charles Bridge (photo), which was built beginning in 1357. More than 4 million tourists come to Prague per year. Departing from Nuremberg, it only takes about three hours by car to get there.


AustriaSZG
Also bordering Bavaria, Austria is a popular destination for city travelers and outdoor fans. The country is famous for its alpine landscape with many opportunities for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter months. Innsbruck for example, is less than two hours from Munich and marks the center point of a popular skiing region. Located directly at the border and easily reachable from the Upper Bavarian area is Salzburg, famous for being the birthplace of Mozart, for its baroque old town and for the medieval Hohensalzburg Castle (photo). There is also a direct freeway connection from Munich to Vienna. Austria’s capital is also the country’s largest city with 2.4 million people living in and around Vienna. It is a major tourist destination, mostly thanks to its historic town center with the historic architecture, its historic palaces of Schönbrunn and the Hofburg as well as for its rich cultural scene with countless museums, performing arts offers and architectural highlights. In a ranking for quality of life among world cities, Vienna has repeatedly claimed the number one spot.


SwitzerlandRhine Falls
Nestled between Austria in the west and France in the east, Switzerland shares a border with Germany that is in part crossing right through Lake Constance, the largest German lake. There are several towns right across the border from Germany, among them St. Gallen with a historic Catholic abbey, and Basel, one of the largest Swiss cities with a notable town hall building. Also close to the German border is the small town of Schaffhausen, with the largest waterfalls of Europe, the Rhine river falls (photo), located nearby. Switzerland’s main attractions, though, are the many lakes, mountain peaks and the country’s largest and most important city Zurich, which can be reached from Munich in a good three hours and from Stuttgart in 2.5 hours. Also ranking highly for its quality of life, Zurich is an important economy and finance hub and home to numerous museums and theatre companies. The city also boasts a number of historic churches and notably, the long-stretched Lake Zurich, which offers a lot of leisure opportunities on or at the clear water.


FranceStrassburg
A foe over several centuries, France has become the leading German partner in politics as well as in economic matters. The border region, Alsace, has long been disputed between the two countries and thus still has some traces of German culture and language left. Mulhouse, a mid-sized city in the three-countries corner between Germany, France and Switzerland, is famous for its interesting museums. Only a good 30 minutes by car from the German city of Karlsruhe, Strasbourg is located, the seat of the European parliament and many other European institutions. The historic city center with its many medieval houses was declared a World Heritage Site and Strasbourg as a whole boasts many attractions, such as the towering Cathedral, covered river bridges and two historic palaces. The French capital Paris, the country’s hub in virtually all regards and home to countless world-famous attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, is a little farther away, but can be reached in three hours from Karlsruhe or in about five hours from the Cologne area.


BelgiumBRU
Although well-known for its chocolate, beers and lace products, Belgium as a whole is one of the less-prominent tourist destinations. Nestled between the Netherlands, France and Germany, Belgium has a North Sea coast section and, in its capital Brussels, the seat of the headquarters of the European Union, along with several other important EU institutions. From the Düsseldorf / Cologne area, Brussels is only two hours away. The Capital Region is home to 1.8 million people and has a number of attractions worth seeing. The city’s central square, the Grand Place (photo), is a registered world heritage site and is surrounded by notable historic buildings including the town hall. Every other August, the square gets covered in a giant flower carpet. Other sights of the city include the Royal Palace, the European Quarter, the small Manneken Pis statue only a few steps from the Grand Place and the Atomium, a structure with a height of 103 meters meant to symbolize the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Only forty minutes north of Brussels, Antwerp is a city with one of Europe’s largest ports.


NetherlandsAMS
The Kingdom of the Netherlands, often colloquially just called “Holland”, also maintains close ties to Germany; in fact, the border region has grown closely together. From Aachen to Maastricht, it takes only 30 minutes by car. Maastricht is a mid-sized town with a very lively core town, seamed by a large number of historic buildings. Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, is about 2.5 hours from the German border. 1.6 million people live in the metropolitan area around the city that is world-famous for its 17th century canals. Amsterdam hosts millions of visitors from around the world each year and offers a number of attractions. There are quite a few notable museums, mostly centered around two famous Amsterdam painters, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. The Rijksmuseum has the world’s largest collection of Dutch art. There are a few specialized markets taking place on piúblic squares around town. Also worth seeing are many historic churches, houses and bridges, but actually a major tourist draw is the red-light district called De Wallen with the famously red-lit windows.