Our new series features under-the-radar holiday destinations that are often overlooked by visitors but cherished by locals. Here, we ask four experts on Germany for their top picks.
Germany, a country of vibrant cities, enchanting half-timbered towns, historic castles, and a diverse landscape that ranges from the sandy beaches of the Baltic coasts to the pine woodland of the Black Forest, has always been a cherished destination for tourists in search of charm and adventure.
But with so many great options to choose from, have you ever wondered where locals prefer to spend their holidays in their own country?
Hiddensee: A white-sand beach retreat in the Baltic Sea
Andrea Schulte-Peevers is a travel guidebook author based in Berlin
Whenever I’m in need of a reset, my sanctuary of choice is Hiddensee, a sweet little island in the Baltic Sea. With its sandy shores, undulating dunes, expansive heathlands and charming thatched-roof farmhouses – but no private cars! – It’s the ultimate hideaway. Even at the height of summer, it’s easy to escape the deluge of day trippers, especially when staying overnight.
My favorite port of call is Kloster, the northernmost of Hiddensee’s three main villages and a charismatic tangle of lanes lined with gift boutiques, art galleries and cafes. The landmark Dornbusch Leuchtturm, a blazing white lighthouse capped by a jaunty red turret, is just a 2km walk away. From up here, you can truly appreciate the island’s untamed beauty that has long tugged at the heartstrings of artists, painters and poets, including the dramatist and Nobel Prize winner Gerhart Hauptmann, whose summer house is now a museum.
Kloster has a few hotels and pensions, but most people, me included, prefer the privacy of a holiday apartment. Come mealtime, a great choice is Schillings Hafenamt in the harbor, where you can enjoy fresh-off-the-boat grilled fish and burgers from happy cows. For delicious traditional bread and homemade cakes, head to Bäckerei Kasten.
Spreewald: Enter into the world of Hansel and Gretel
Juan Martinez is a Colombian travel photojournalist and blogger who has lived in Germany for over a decade.
Even before my first visit to the Spreewald (a Unesco biosphere reserve) was over, I was already sketching plans for my next adventure there. Six years have passed, and I still find magic in its lush forests and narrow water canals. Located just an hour from Berlin, the Spreewald (Forest of the Spree) is an oasis unlike any other in Germany. Here, multiple canals cradled by dense forests become a scenic haven for nature enthusiasts and curious travelers looking for a weekend getaway.
After so many visits, I still find it challenging to choose what I like the most about Spreewald. Perhaps it’s the tranquility of navigating its waterways or the beauty of wandering through its enchanting woods and hidden hiking trails. For those coming here for the first time, trying local gherkin pickles is an absolute must. From pickle schnapps to pickle marmalades, Lübbenau’s farmers’ market surprises with a variety of creative bites featuring this local ingredient.
If you plan to stay longer, the town of Lübbenau is the best choice. Homestays like Spreemilia Gurkenbude offer a traditional and cozy alternative, while Schloss Lübbenau provides an opportunity to feel like an 18th-century Kaiser.
This delightful spot is a year-round destination featuring festivals that span all seasons. During these events, locals don traditional costumes, reviving age-old customs. The upcoming Lehde Festival, set for the last weekend of September, includes fireworks and a Kahn parade. As autumn arrives, Lübbenau transforms into a lively fall market, spotlighting the region’s finest harvest.
Münsterland: Picture-perfect towns and medieval castles
Alexandra Kryaneva is a writer, blogger and social media consultant based in Dortmund.
Münsterland, located in the western part of Germany, doesn’t receive as many international tourists as other regions in the Black Forest but it’s well worth exploring if you’re looking for a picturesque getaway. It’s a popular biking destination thanks to its extensive network of cycling paths that run through lush green fields and pine forests. It’s also home to several historic towns and castles.
Münster, the regional capital, is an excellent place to start if you want to know the region. It’s a vibrant, bike-friendly city dating back to the Middle Ages (though much of it was rebuilt after WWII), and you can see the history preserved in its cobblestone streets and medieval buildings. Highlights for me include visits to the LWL Museum of Art and Culture and the Art Museum Pablo Picasso. For dining options, consider visiting the weekly markets(Wochenmarkt), which take place on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. These markets offer a variety of food items, from fresh produce to meats, cheeses, and freshly baked pastries, perfect for breakfast or lunch.
In the evening, Pinkus Müller brewery is a popular choice, known not only for its beer but also for its excellent regional cuisine. It’s a comfortable spot to enjoy a meal and unwind.
For day trips, I recommend driving 30 minutes to Lüdinghausen, with its picturesque city castle, Burg Lüdinghausen, and the charming water castle, Burg Vischering. At Burg Vischering, you can rent a pedal boat and savor freshly baked bread and pastries from the castle’s own bakery, Terjung. If you want to turn the day trip into an overnight trip, I highly recommend Hotel 11.