Northern Germany in 1 Week
This week-long itinerary includes Berlin, the most exciting city in Europe (and the third-most popular after London and Paris), and the Hanseatic cities of Hamburg and Lübeck. We’re adding Dresden, a good day trip from Berlin. These northern cities are relatively close to one another but worlds apart in terms of culture and atmosphere.
Days 1, 2 & 3: Berlin
When it comes to exploring the endlessly fascinating city of Berlin, 3 days is hardly enough, but even a short visit will provide you with an introduction and make you want to return.
If you are interested in the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, there are many places you can visit to gain a better understanding of what it was and what it meant. The longest remaining section of the Wall is the East Side Gallery, a veritable outdoor art gallery painted by dozens of international artists. Another spot to visit is the Berlin Wall Memorial/Berliner Mauer Dokumentationszentrum, a reconstructed stretch of the Wall with a memorial building that documents where the Wall stood and what it actually looked like. A third possibility is the Mauermuseum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie (Berlin Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie), a small museum at the former crossing into East Berlin. Finally, for a glimpse—albeit a somewhat nostalgic one—of life in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) of East Berlin, spend an hour or two in the DDR Museum, devoted to the Soviet-inspired objects in everyday use in the DDR. Visiting all four of these sites will take up an entire day.
On one of your 3 Berlin days, you’ll want to make a stop at the iconic Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) and nearby Reichstag, where you can ascend to the glass dome for a great view of the city. Afterwards, art lovers should allow at least 2 hours to visit the European masterworks on display in the Gemäldegalerie (Painting Gallery) in the Kulturforum complex. You probably won’t have time to visit all five museums comprising Berlin’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island), so concentrate on two of them: the Neues Museum, with its superlative collection of Egyptian antiquities and the 2,500-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti, one of Berlin’s greatest treasures; and the Pergamon Museum, with its famous Greek altars, Roman city gates, and Babylonian processional walls. (Note: The Pergamon is being renovated until 2023; go to its website before heading over to see what is currently open to visitors.)
Day 4: Day Trip to Potsdam
Head here to see Schloss Sanssouci, Frederick the Great’s beautiful baroque palace. Give yourself at least 4 hours to tour the palace, stroll through the landscaped grounds, and explore a bit of Potsdam, the 1,000-year-old city that is the capital of Brandenburg. In the evening, back in Berlin, consider attending a concert, an opera, or just chill out at a nice bar or café.
Day 5: Day Trip to Dresden
You can get there by train from Berlin in a couple of hours, but make certain you leave Berlin early because there is so much to see in Dresden. Concentrate on three places, all of them loaded with art treasures: the Albertinum, the Grünes Gewolbe (Green Vaults), and the Zwinger palace with its Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Gallery).
Day 6: Hamburg
Board a train at Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof for the 2-hour trip to Hamburg. You’ll have an afternoon to take in some sights, and to get an idea of what this appealing port city is all about, take a harbor cruise to see the wharves, cranes, and huge ships that keep Hamburg on the map as Europe’s second-largest port (after Rotterdam). For your last evening in Germany, take a walk on the wild side down the Reeperbahn, the city’s famous (or infamous) Red Light district.
Day 7: Flight Home
From Hamburg, board a fast train back to Berlin or Frankfurt.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.