Once Oktoberfest is out of the way – and six million tourists have left the city – Munich makes for a lovely autumn break. Steeped in history and tradition, it’s Germany’s third biggest city and has an interesting mix of centuries-old architecture and ultra-modern developments. Don’t be put off if beer isn’t your thing – although the city is home six huge breweries, it also has world-class galleries and museums, beautiful parks (including the Englischer Garten, which looks particularly beautiful during the autumn months), and plenty of traditional restaurants where you can cosy up with a hearty plate of Bavarian fare. In November, guests can look forward to Markt der Sinne, an impressive arts and crafts market, and several Christmas markets, including the famous Christkindlmarkt Marienplatz in central Munich. After a day of exploring, take a dip in the beautiful thermal baths of Müller’sche Volksbad.
When in Munich, a day trip to the spectacular Schloss Neuschwanstein is a must. The 19th-century castle near Füssen in southwest Bavaria was commissioned by King Ludwig II and is one of Germany’s most recognisable landmarks. It has featured in several films, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and even inspired Walt Disney’s original Disneyland castle. You can get to Füssen via a two-hour train from Munich’s Hauptbahnhof (the central station), followed by a bus. Tickets sell out quickly, so it’s worth booking ahead if you want a tour of the castle or a horse carriage ride to the top. On the way back, stop at Restaurant Kainz for traditional Bavarian food, including apple strudel with hot chocolate.
Where To Stay
AFFORDABLE: Schwan Locke
Locke is one of our favourite brands for affordable accommodation in Europe – and the aparthotel group recently opened a site in central Munich. Just a few minutes from Theresienwiese (where Oktoberfest is held) the hotel has 151 colourful rooms, all of which have fully equipped kitchens and living areas with a separate a dining space. Ideal for a girls’ trip, there’s also a gym, coffee shop, courtyard and cocktail bar.
Rooms from £125 per night.
LUXE: Louis Hotel
For a luxury weekend break, check into Louis, one of the smartest hotels in the city. It’s in a great location – next to the central Marienplatz – and each of its 72 rooms has simple yet chic décor, handcrafted furniture and great city views. There’s a restaurant, champagne bar and rooftop terrace, and the hotel concierge can help arrange everything from exhibitions to walking tours.
Rooms from £245 per night.
Leipzig is Saxony’s largest city and in recent years has been dubbed ‘Berlin’s cooler little sister’. A city full of young creatives, you could easily spend a week here taking in the cultural highlights, but it’s perfect for a long weekend. Over the last decade, a string of cool restaurants, cafés, bars and nightclubs have opened, but the city is probably most famous for its musical and artistic influence – classical composer Bach was born in Leipzig and Bachfest takes place every year. Book a free walking tour of the city to visit its historical sights – including St Nicholas Church, Old City Hall and St Thomas Church – then explore some of the museums including Grassi, Bach-Museum and Museum der Bildenden Künste, which houses fine art by Monet and Munch.
During the autumn months, Leipzig hosts world-class festivals, including Leipzig Jazz Days in which more than 100 jazz musicians perform at the Oper and Schauspielhaus theatre. The European Dance & Theatre Festival takes place in mid-November, followed by several winter markets. If you’d rather go out-out, the city has a buzzing techno scene: Distillery is the oldest club, while newcomer Institut der Zukunft is considered the Berghain of the city.
Where To Stay
AFFORDABLE: Hotel Fregehaus
This small boutique hotel is in central Leipzig, but feels private and cosy as it’s tucked away behind a cobbled courtyard. The building itself dates back to the 16th century and has been carefully restored with modern interiors and antique furniture. Guests can stay in one of 17 light and bright rooms, and have breakfast in the lounge – there isn’t a restaurant or bar in the hotel, but there are plenty of options in the local area.
Rooms from £85 per night.
LUXE: Steigenberger Grand Hotel
This is Leipzig’s grande dame hotel, but it’s fantastic value if you want to be in walking distance of the city’s top sights. Steigenberger has 161 rooms with city views, a restaurant which serves German and European dishes, and a bar built around a huge fireplace. Here, one of the main draws is the underground Spa World which has a steam room, sauna and relaxation zone with waterbeds – ideal after a day of sightseeing.
Rooms from £145 per night.
Dresden is a beautiful Renaissance city, home to some of Germany’s most striking architecture, including Residenzschloss which houses several precious collections of artefacts and artwork. Although most of the city was destroyed during World War Two, much of it has since been painstakingly restored to its formerly glory. It’s a fairly small city, so you can easily squeeze the main historical sites, galleries and museums into a couple of days, including Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister – an impressive collection of 16-18th-century European art, and the Zwinger gardens which look particularly beautiful during the autumnal months. The city’s Grosser Garten (Great Garden) is another must visit, as is the domed Frauenkirche church. Once you’ve hit the sights, venture a little further out to see some of the city’s prettiest neighbourhoods, including Striesen and Blasewitz, east of Dresden’s old town, and Loschwitz where you’ll find grand villas.
In November and December, the Semperoper (Opera House) schedules performances every night of the week, while the chic Altmarkt is the place to try seasonal produce and baked goods – remember to visit the Schokoladenbar (chocolate bar) for souvenirs. For a fun night out, Jazzclub Tonne is open until 2am, or book a table at Blue Note to enjoy live music and cocktails.
Where To Stay
Limehome has a range of self-catered properties to choose from in and around Dresden’s city centre. For a romantic weekend for two, Hoyerswerdaerstr is just a short walk from the famous Rose Garden and has a few rooms to choose from – the one-bedroom suite has a spacious bedroom, separate living area and kitchen, and modern bathroom. Guests can use the contactless system for checking in and out.
From £60 per night.
LUXE: Vienna House QF
For something more upmarket that won’t break the bank, Vienna House QF is a modern five-star hotel in the middle of Dresden’s old town. There are 95 rooms and suites in four sizes, all of which are spacious with neutral décor, plush furniture and marble en-suites. Guests can enjoy a breakfast buffet and stop by Bellini’s Bar for coffee and snacks – there isn’t a restaurant, but there are plenty within walking distance.
From £90 per night.
Germany’s second largest – and wealthiest – city was made for tourists who want to have a good time. It might be considered one of the country’s most important business hubs, but the city is filled with interesting neighbourhoods where you’ll find restaurants serving every kind of cuisine, bars and nightclubs. City life revolves around Port Elbe, but it’s easy to live like a local here as you easily stumble across antiques markets, small food festivals and street parties at the weekend. Hit the main sites including the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall (a seriously impressive feat of architecture), the baroque St Michael’s Church, and Miniatur Wunderland, home to thousands of miniature models. You can easily get around by U-Bahn and S-Bahn, but a boat tour along the river Elbe is a must.
Book an evening at the Elbphilharmonie which has an exciting lineup of events over the next few months, including performances from concert pianists, jazz musicians and singers; and visit the city’s biggest parks to see the autumn colours, including Alter Elbpark and Wallanlagen. If you have time, the island of Kaltehofe has lovely countryside views. Connected to the city by bridge it’s a hidden gem.
Where To Stay
AFFORDABLE: The George Hotel
Next to the beautiful Alster lake, the George Hotel has impressive views over Hamburg and the water. With modern and chic interiors, there are 125 rooms, ranging from simple doubles to spacious suites. Guests can dine at the hotel’s Italian restaurant and bar, enjoy sundowners at the rooftop Campari Lounge and book treatments at the spa.
Rooms from £105 per night.
LUXE: Louis C. Jacob
This smart hotel is on the elegant Elbchaussee, surrounded by good transport links into the city centre. The building itself dates back to the 18th century and is filled with interesting curios, furniture and Louis C. Jacob’s prestigious art collection. There are 85 rooms with tasteful pops of colour throughout, a wellness centre, and two destination restaurants, including two-Michelin-starred Jacob’s.
Rooms from £250 per night.
We couldn't finish this round up without a quick mention for Berlin. The city has everything you need for a memorable stay, despite still bearing the scars of two world wars and a divided past. Today it’s teeming with trendy neighbourhoods, culture, world-class restaurants and a high-octane party scene that’s second to none. One of the best ways to see the sites and landmark buildings is to hire an eclectic scooter or book a walking tour – Free Walking Tour operates excellent trips around the city, led by a local historian. The main tour, which lasts around four hours, passes the TV tower, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag Building, Hitler’s Bunker Site and the Jewish Holocaust Memorial. Other must-see sites include Schloss Charlottenburg, Neues Museum which forms part of a Unesco World Heritage Site, and, of course, what remains of the 160km-long Berlin Wall.
Over the next few months, there are countless things to see and do, including Berlin’s Festival of Lights when some of the city’s most famous monuments and building are illuminated by artistic productions, and Jazz Fest in early November. See the autumn colours at Grunewald Forest, visit the outdoor flea markets, and stop off for coffee and pretzels at one of the many cafés.
Where To Stay
AFFORDABLE: Wood Stock
If you like the idea of self-catering, Plum Guide has a great selection of chic apartments to choose from. Wood Stock, in the Prenzlauer Berg district, has Danish-inspired interiors and floor-to-ceiling windows. Couples can make use of a spacious living area, kitchen, marble en-suite bathroom and two balconies which have lovely neighbourhood views.
From £64 per night.
In the city’s edgy Kreuzberg area (which is full of quirky thrift shops and small cafés) this boutique hotel is housed in an art deco building that was once the iconic Oranienpalast café. Today, there are 41 rooms spread over five floors, all with great city views. There’s also a fine dining restaurant where you can listen to live jazz from local musicians or indulge in an eight-course breakfast club menu.
Rooms from £208 per night.
Want to know more about Berlin? Read our guide here.
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